Apple Threatened to Ban Facebook Over Human Exploitation on Instagram

Newly uncovered information shows Apple threatened to pull Facebook products, including Instagram, out of its App Store after a 2019 investigation revealed Facebook-owned apps were used for human exploitation and the trafficking of slaves. The beginnings of this report go back seeral years, as a BBC News Arabic undercover investigation — published in 2019 — […]

Apple Threatened to Ban Facebook Over Human Exploitation on Instagram

Newly uncovered information shows Apple threatened to pull Facebook products, including Instagram, out of its App Store after a 2019 investigation revealed Facebook-owned apps were used for human exploitation and the trafficking of slaves.

The beginnings of this report go back seeral years, as a BBC News Arabic undercover investigation — published in 2019 — revealed a more disturbing face of Instagram: one that freely allows users to buy and sell domestic workers through a simple post and hashtag combination.

BBC reports that the posts and hashtags used for these illegal sales were mainly in Arabic and were shared by users in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Victims — primarily women — were often categorized by race and offered to be bought for a few thousand dollars.

More recently, followed up on the original BBC investigation in another report — part of its Facebook Files — that suggests the social media giant was aware of the online slave trade before BBC got in contact and had been investigating the issue. The Journal found this information based on a Facebook 2019 internal report.

In that internal report, a Facebook researcher asked, “Was this issue known to Facebook before BBC inquiry and Apple escalation?”

“Yes,” was the response. “Throughout 2018 and [the first half of] 2019 we conducted the global Understanding Exercise in order to fully understand how domestic servitude manifests on our platform across its entire life cycle: recruitment, facilitation, and exploitation.”

After BBC released its 2019 report, Facebook banned the main hashtag used for the illegal slave trade and removed hundreds of accounts from Instagram. However, this has not fully resolved the issue.

“What they are doing is promoting an online slave market,” says Urmila Bhoola, the UN’s special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery. “If Google, Apple, Facebook, or any other companies are hosting apps like these, they have to be held accountable.”

The recent Wall Street Journal report says that Apple and Google both raised these concerns to Facebook because the illegal sales are in breach of the US tech firms’ rules for app developers and users. Apple reportedly threatened to ban Facebook apps from its app store in response to the 2019 BBC report.

The pressure from the duo prompted Facebook to speed up the implementation of additional investigative and preventive measures that have “found more than 300,000 instances of potential violations and disabled more than 1,000 accounts”.

BBC News Arabic’s undercover investigation

Although it remains a problem at large — as the BBC has found listings still active on Instagram and on other apps — Facebook says that it has been combating human trafficking on its platform for many years and it prohibits exploitation “in no uncertain terms.”

In summary: Facebook was aware of the issues of human exploitation on its apps as early as 2018, a year before the original BBC report, according to documents recently uncovered by the Journal. It wasn’t until after that BBC report was published that Facebook was forced to act more aggressively in its response as Apple and Google supplied considerable pressure to fix the issue once made aware of it.

It points to a reoccurring issue where Facebook is aware of a problem but does not make that problem public nor does it respond in what would be deemed fast enough by the public or its peers without outside pressure. For example, Facebook has been under considerable scrutiny of late thanks to a major report that shows the social media company is aware that its platform is toxic for teen girls and contributes to the deterioration of mental health and self-confidence of some of its users. That report shows Facebook conducted an internal study that confirmed findings that have been alleged by third-party research for years, but did not reveal that information to the public.


Image credits: Header image via BBC documentary.

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Google Pixel 6 Leak Shows Multiple Photoshop-Like Features

A new report alleges several Google Pixel 6 hardware specifications, as well as software enhancements that are very similar to Photoshop features, are coming to the soon-to-be-released device. Back in May, known smartphone leaker Jon Prosser published a set of renders that showed a dramatically unusual camera design for what he alleged would be the […]

Google Pixel 6 Leak Shows Multiple Photoshop-Like Features

A new report alleges several Google Pixel 6 hardware specifications, as well as software enhancements that are very similar to Photoshop features, are coming to the soon-to-be-released device.

Back in May, known smartphone leaker Jon Prosser published a set of renders that showed a dramatically unusual camera design for what he alleged would be the Pixel 6. Three months later, Google confirmed his leak when it quietly launched a Google Pixel 6 page that shares pretty much the exact design leaked by Prosser: a horizontal camera bump that stretches across the upper portion of the rear of the device.

While Google revealed what the phone would look like, the colors it would be available in, and that it would be powered by it’s new in-house custom chip called Tensor, other specifics were not given.

While Google has officially kept details under wraps, recently published a detailed story on what it reports will be the upcoming camera features of the Google Pixel 6. It covers everything from the camera array through potential software additions that were revealed to the publication through an unreleased, internal version of the Google Camera app that was provided to it by a source.

To start with, XDA alleges that the rear camera array for the Pixel 6 will feature a 50-megapixel Samsung GN1 sensor, a 12-megapixel Sony IMX386 ultra-wide, and the Pixel 6 Pro will also add a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 4x zoom telephoto lens. On the front of the camera, the Pixel 6 will allegedly use an unspecified 8-megapixel sensor while the Pixel 6 Pro will have a 12-megapixel Sony IMX663 sensor.

As far as software is concerned, XDA admits that many of the features that it found in the code could not be positively identified because they use code names. However, the publication says that it was still able to see quite a bit that have raised “exciting” questions about possible camera features.

One of the more interesting features could be “magic eraser,” which XDA believes could be the return of anobject removal feature from Google Photos which was thought to be long-abandoned that, supercharged with the Google Tensor Chip, may make a return in the Pixel 6. The feature was originally teased during a Google I/O keynote in 2017 but after what was shown in the above video (screen captures below), it was never heard from again.

Before Object Removal
After Object Removal

What was promised looks a lot more impressive than the features currently available through Samsung and more recently VSCO. While such removal is possible in Adobe Photoshop, it is a fairly intensive and manual process. What Google describes is something far more approachable and automatic.

XDA also references an already-confirmed feature called Face Deblur that the company revealed in late August. Google showed a blurry photo of a toddler who was moving during the capture and a second version of the same photo but run through Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), and the child’s face was comparably sharper.

XDA found several other interesting features like a motion blur feature, a “nima aesthetic,” baby mode, the return of “frequent faces,” and more. Those interested in seeing the full slate of features uncovered by XDA are encouraged to read the publication’s full story.

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