Social media apps used to buy maids, undercover investigation reveals


Social media apps used to buy maids, undercover investigation reveals
16-year-old Fatou with her seller in Kuwait City, filmed by the BBC News Arabic undercover team

A BBC Africa Eye report has revealed that some apps on Google and Apple are used to buy and sell maids in Kuwait.

The Silicon Valley’s Online Slave Market alleges that the two companies have been approving and providing apps used to promote human trafficking and modern slavery.

Apparently, the apps are then popularized using hashtags such as ‘#maidsfortransfer‘ and accounts on Facebook-owned Instagram and other apps.

Through an undercover investigation, the team found a child aged 16 years being offered for sale in Kuwait on an app known as 4Sale.

The cost of buying the girl? Ksh.392,502; according to the BBC, she was being sold alongside things like second hand cars, lawnmowers and TVs.

This was discovered by two members of the team who went went undercover posing as a married couple, looking to buy a new domestic worker.

A spot check by Citizen Digital confirmed the app is still available for download on both Apple App Store and Google Play.

“The team spoke to 57 app users and were invited to meet women being offered for sale by more than 15 Kuwaitis on apps available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, and through adverts posted via Instagram, and they were encouraged by sellers to keep wages low, confiscate the workers’ passports, deny them the right to a day off or holiday, and restrict the movement and communication of the domestic worker outside the household,” BBC reported.

In their response to the expose, Facebook told BBC that they do not allow content or behavior on Instagram that may lead to human exploitation and that they had banned the hashtag ‘maidsfortransfer’ ( خادمات للتنازل ) as much of the content violated their policies.

They added that they had removed 703 violating accounts, although BBC reports that hundreds of Instagram accounts are still active and selling domestic workers.

On their part, Google told the BBC that they are deeply troubled by the allegations, as this type of activity had no place on Google Play.

Apple said that they strictly prohibit the solicitation or promotion of illegal behavior, including human trafficking and child exploitation in the App Store and across every part of their business.

“We take any accusations or claims around this behavior very seriously,” they said.

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