Apple threatens to remove Facebook from App Store

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple threatened to remove Facebook from the App Store after a 2019 BBC report detailed how traffickers used Facebook to sell victims.

Apple’s consideration of removing the Facebook app comes after a BBC report from 2019. This report details how traffickers use Facebook to exchange information, according to a newly released Wall Street Journal document.

Specifically, human traffickers in the Middle East used Mark Zuckerberg’s social network to advertise the recruitment of domestic workers, but in reality the victims would be illegally traded or exchanged. The BBC investigated this activity and announced it in 2019.

According to an internal memo obtained by the BBC, Facebook was actually aware of the issue in advance and was investigated by the content moderation team in charge of the Middle East during 2018 and the first half of 2019. The team noticed the outbreaks. “obvious” problems appear on the platform with a lifecycle of recruitment, training, and exploitation, but do not seek to offer a solution.

This information angered Apple and threatened to remove Facebook from its app store.

The Wall Street Journal also said that Facebook’s AI content moderation mechanism can’t detect most of the languages ​​supported on the platform. Meanwhile, the use of people to control harmful content in places where English is not the main language is also limited, creating a “blind spot” for criminals to exploit.

According to the document, Facebook’s team of moderators and third-party contractors spent more than 3.2 million hours searching for, labeling, or removing information that the company concluded was false or misleading. However, only 13% of those hours are spent in markets outside the US. In this limited time, they’re also largely focused on “brand safety,” like making sure ads don’t appear alongside content that advertisers might feel competitive.

Faced with poor censorship, Apple classed the Facebook app as a threat with “potentially serious business consequences” and considered removing the app from the App Store, according to the BBC. However, in the end Apple did not do this.

According to the report, after Apple’s warning, Facebook performed a server scan for infringing content. The team detected more than 300,000 potential breaches and disabled more than 1,000 accounts. The group also delayed a number of projects to radically eliminate human trafficking content and make policies work more effectively. At the end of 2020, after three months of investigation by Facebook, dozens of networks suspected of human trafficking were shut down.

Apple and Facebook were not immediately available for comment.


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