Silicon Valley's Online Slave Market - Full documentary - BBC News Arabic | BBC Africa Eye

BBC News Africa
3 Nov 201951:00
EducationalLearning
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TLDRThe BBC News Arabic investigation reveals the disturbing online slave market in the Gulf, where domestic workers are sold via apps provided by Google and Apple. Despite Kuwaiti laws protecting domestic workers, many are exploited and abused, with their passports confiscated and rights denied. The undercover team exposes the illegal trade, highlighting the involvement of tech giants in facilitating this market. Efforts to rescue victims like Fatou show the severe human rights violations occurring. The investigation calls for stricter regulations and accountability from both governments and tech companies to end this modern slavery.

Takeaways
  • ๐Ÿ“ฒ Apps provided by Google and Apple are being used to sell domestic workers online in the Gulf, creating an unregulated black market.
  • ๐Ÿšจ The online trade is likened to an 'online slave market' where women and children are deprived of their basic human rights and left vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
  • ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช In Kuwait, the government passed a law in 2015 to give domestic workers more rights and impose stricter regulations, but this has led to a controversial shift towards online sales.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ค Ann Abunda, founder of Sandigan, fights for the welfare and rights of domestic workers in Kuwait, highlighting the organization's efforts to combat this issue.
  • ๐Ÿ›๏ธ The app '4Sale' is a popular platform in Kuwait where domestic workers are listed for sale alongside other commodities, such as cars and electronics.
  • ๐Ÿ“ฑ The BBC undercover team's investigation reveals that the sale of domestic workers via apps like 4Sale violates both Kuwaiti and international laws.
  • ๐Ÿ’ฐ Domestic workers are sold for between $2,500 and $5,000, with the '4Sale' app featuring a filter by race, which is illegal.
  • ๐Ÿ” The 'Kafala' system is highlighted as a significant factor in the vulnerability of domestic workers, as it restricts their ability to change jobs or leave the country without sponsor permission.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ง The script describes the shocking case of a child being sold, illustrating the extent of modern slavery in the form of domestic work.
  • ๐ŸŒ Despite policies against modern slavery by tech giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook, the investigation uncovers widespread violations of these policies on their platforms.
  • ๐Ÿ  After the investigation, 4Sale removed its domestic workers section, and Facebook (owner of Instagram) claimed to have a dedicated team to detect and remove such content, although similar issues persist.
Q & A
  • What is the issue being exposed by BBC News Arabic in Kuwait?

    -BBC News Arabic is exposing an online slave market where domestic workers, including women and children, are being sold via apps provided by tech giants like Google and Apple.

  • What is the name of the organization that fights for the welfare and rights of domestic workers in Kuwait?

    -The organization is called Sandigan, founded by Ann Abunda.

  • What is the controversial multi-billion dollar industry referred to in the script?

    -The controversial industry is the online trade of domestic workers, facilitated by apps like 4Sale, Haraj, and Instagram, which operate outside of government regulations.

  • What is the name of the app used by the BBC undercover team to investigate the online trade of domestic workers?

    -The app used by the BBC undercover team is called 4Sale.

  • What illegal activities were discovered involving a policeman during the undercover operation?

    -The policeman was trying to sell his domestic worker, had confiscated her passport, and didn't give her a day off, all of which are illegal in Kuwait.

  • What is the 'Kafala' system mentioned in the script?

    -The 'Kafala' system is a sponsorship system where domestic workers are brought into a country by agencies and officially registered with the government. Employers pay the agencies a fee and become the official sponsor of the domestic worker, controlling their ability to change jobs or leave the country.

  • What is the illegal activity that apps like 4Sale, Haraj, and Instagram are facilitating?

    -These apps are enabling employers to sell the sponsorship of their domestic workers to other employers for a profit, bypassing agencies and creating an unregulated black market that leaves workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

  • What are some of the illegal actions taken by sellers that were discovered during the investigation?

    -Sellers were found to be using discriminatory language, selling women without their knowledge, and confiscating their passports, all in violation of Kuwaiti and international law.

  • What is the role of Ann Abunda after being released from prison?

    -After being released from prison, Ann Abunda has dedicated her life to helping vulnerable domestic workers in Kuwait through her organization, Sandigan.

  • What actions did the tech companies take in response to the BBC investigation?

    -Following the investigation, 4Sale removed its domestic workers section. Facebook, which owns Instagram, and Google stated their commitment to eliminating modern slavery and human trafficking on their platforms, and Apple emphasized its App Store review guidelines against discriminatory content.

  • What is the current situation of Fatou after being found by the Kuwaiti authorities?

    -After being found by the Kuwaiti authorities, Fatou was taken to a state-run shelter for domestic workers and was later deported back to Guinea.

  • What are the legal protections for domestic workers in Kuwait as mentioned in the script?

    -Kuwaiti law provides protections for domestic workers, including the illegality of advertising, selling, or enslaving them. It also mandates that employers cannot withhold a domestic worker's passport or deny them a day off per week.

  • What is the broader implication of the online slave market for domestic workers?

    -The online slave market implies a significant violation of human rights, with thousands of domestic workers being bought and sold, exposed to exploitation and abuse, and highlights the need for stricter regulations and enforcement of laws by both governments and tech companies.

Outlines
00:00
๐Ÿ˜จ Online Slave Market for Domestic Workers

The script reveals a shocking online slave market operating in Kuwait where domestic workers are sold via apps available on Google and Apple platforms. BBC News Arabic goes undercover to expose this illegal trade, which thrives on the lack of regulation and puts women and children at high risk of exploitation and abuse. Despite new laws in 2015 aimed at protecting domestic workers, a controversial industry has emerged where they are bought and sold online using apps like 4Sale. Ann Abunda, founder of Sandigan, an organization fighting for the rights of domestic workers, and the BBC team pose as a couple looking to buy a domestic worker, uncovering the disturbing ease with which people can become involved in this trade.

05:45
๐Ÿšจ Illegal Practices and Discrimination on 4Sale App

The BBC undercover team investigates the 4Sale app, which not only allows the sale of domestic workers but also features an illegal filter by race. They find that the women being sold are often unaware of their online advertisements and are subjected to conditions that violate both Kuwaiti and international laws, such as passport confiscation and lack of days off. The team interviews 57 users of the app and discovers that similar practices are happening in Saudi Arabia on the Haraj app and on Instagram, owned by Facebook, where sellers use racist and discriminatory language.

11:14
๐Ÿ“œ The 'Kafala' System and Exploitation

The script delves into the 'Kafala' system, which governs the employment of domestic workers in Kuwait. Under this system, workers are brought into the country by agencies and registered with the government. Employers pay a fee to become the official sponsor of the worker, who cannot change jobs or leave the country without the sponsor's permission. Apps like 4Sale and Haraj, and platforms like Instagram, facilitate the sale of sponsorship, bypassing agencies and creating an unregulated black market that increases vulnerability to abuse. The BBC team's investigation leads to a disturbing encounter where a child is being offered for sale.

16:17
๐Ÿ‘ง The Plight of a Child Domestic Worker

The BBC team documents the case of a young girl, referred to as 'Fatou' to protect her identity, who is being illegally sold by her employer in Kuwait. The employer has broken several laws, including employing a minor, confiscating her passport, and restricting her freedom. Ann from Sandigan and the UN special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Urmila Bhoola, recognize this as a clear example of modern slavery. Ann initiates an investigation to help Fatou, involving the Guinean Embassy and a local policeman, Jacques, who takes it upon himself to find Fatou's family in Guinea.

21:18
๐Ÿ” The Search for Fatou's Family

Jacques, a policeman in Guinea, expands his search for Fatou's family to the remote forest regions of the country. Meanwhile, the script discusses the trafficking of underage girls from Guinea, highlighting the lucrative industry for traffickers and the desperate measures families take to escape poverty. The BBC team meets a trafficker who explains how girls like Fatou end up in Kuwait, and they also meet other underage workers who share their experiences of being bought and sold using apps, illustrating the exploitation they face.

26:39
๐Ÿ“ฑ Tech Giants and Modern Slavery

The script criticizes tech giants Google, Apple, and Facebook for hosting apps and platforms that facilitate the illegal sale of domestic workers, despite their policies against modern slavery and human trafficking. It details how these companies' guidelines are violated by the use of discriminatory language and the sale of workers through apps like 4Sale and on Instagram. The BBC team's investigation shows that these practices continue unabated, with no apparent enforcement of the companies' own rules.

31:40
๐Ÿ  Ann's Struggle to Help Fatou

Ann's efforts to help Fatou reach a critical point when all other options are exhausted, leading the BBC team to take their video of Fatou to the Kuwaiti authorities for assistance. They meet with Nasser al-Mousawi, Head of the Domestic Workers Office, and May al-Tararwah, a lawyer, who provide insights into the issue. Eventually, the Kuwaiti authorities locate Fatou, and Ann arranges a meeting with her at a state-run shelter for domestic workers, where many are awaiting legal resolution or deportation.

37:03
โœˆ๏ธ Fatou's Deportation and Aftermath

Fatou shares her experience of working for three households in Kuwait and only receiving two months' salary during her nine months there. Two days after her meeting with Ann, Fatou is deported back to Guinea. The script reflects on the discrepancy between Kuwait's progressive laws protecting domestic workers and the reality of violations and lack of enforcement. It also notes that no legal action has been taken against those who tried to sell Fatou, and the Kuwaiti government has not introduced new regulations to address the online market for domestic workers.

42:30
๐Ÿ›ก๏ธ Accountability and the Ongoing Online Slave Market

The script concludes with a call to action for businesses to ensure that their platforms are not used for modern slavery and human trafficking. It highlights the ongoing issue of domestic workers, including children, being sold on platforms like Instagram, Haraj, and other apps available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. The lack of government enforcement and stricter regulations by tech giants is criticized, as it allows this online trade to continue, leaving many women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The script also notes the responses from 4Sale, Facebook, Google, and Apple following the investigation.

Mindmap
Keywords
๐Ÿ’กDomestic Workers
Domestic workers are individuals employed to perform household chores such as cleaning, cooking, and childcare. In the context of the video, these workers are primarily women who are employed in Gulf countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The video discusses the exploitation of these workers, highlighting the violation of their basic human rights and the illegal activities surrounding their employment.
๐Ÿ’กOnline Slave Market
The term 'online slave market' refers to the disturbing practice of buying and selling domestic workers through online platforms, which is likened to modern-day slavery. The video script describes how apps provided by tech giants like Google and Apple facilitate this illegal trade, turning it into a digital black market that deprives workers of their rights and leaves them vulnerable to abuse.
๐Ÿ’กApps
In the video, 'apps' are mobile applications that are used as platforms for the illegal buying and selling of domestic workers. The apps mentioned in the script include 4Sale and Haraj, which are available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. These apps have sections dedicated to the trade of domestic workers, thus enabling the online slave market.
๐Ÿ’ก4Sale
4Sale is a specific app mentioned in the script that is used for buying and selling a variety of items, including domestic workers. It is highlighted as the most popular commodity app in Kuwait and is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app has features that allow users to filter by race, which is a violation of both Kuwaiti and international law.
๐Ÿ’กHuman Rights
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all individuals are entitled, regardless of who they are or where they come from. The video emphasizes the violation of these rights in the context of domestic workers being sold online. The workers are deprived of basic rights such as having a day off per week and not having their passports held by their employers, which are illegal under Kuwaiti law.
๐Ÿ’กKafala System
The 'Kafala system' is a sponsorship system used in Gulf countries to bring domestic workers into the country. Under this system, as explained in the script, agencies bring the workers and register them with the government, and potential employers pay a fee to become the official sponsor of the worker. The system restricts the worker's ability to change jobs or leave the country without the sponsor's permission, which contributes to their vulnerability.
๐Ÿ’กAnn Abunda
Ann Abunda is the founder of Sandigan, an organization that fights for the welfare and rights of domestic workers in Kuwait. She is a key figure in the video, working to rescue and assist abused domestic workers. Ann's efforts to help 'Fatou,' a young domestic worker, exemplify the advocacy work done to protect these vulnerable individuals.
๐Ÿ’กModern Slavery
Modern slavery refers to practices similar to traditional slavery, such as forced labor and human trafficking, that occur in the present day. The video script uses the term to describe the situation of domestic workers being sold online, highlighting the coercion and control exercised by employers over these workers, which is illegal and a violation of international human rights law.
๐Ÿ’กUndercover Investigation
An 'undercover investigation' is a type of journalistic research where investigators pose as regular individuals to expose illegal or unethical activities. In the video, a BBC team conducts an undercover investigation in Kuwait, using the 4Sale app to expose the online trade of domestic workers, which is a form of modern slavery.
๐Ÿ’กSilicon Valley Tech Giants
The term 'Silicon Valley tech giants' refers to large technology companies based in Silicon Valley, California, such as Google, Apple, and Facebook. The video script criticizes these companies for hosting apps that facilitate the illegal trade of domestic workers, thus implicating them in the promotion of an online slave market.
๐Ÿ’กRegulations
Regulations in the context of the video refer to the rules and policies that govern the operation of apps and online platforms. The script calls for stricter regulations from tech companies and governments to prevent the online trade of domestic workers. It points out that current regulations are not being effectively enforced, allowing the online slave market to thrive.
Highlights

Women employed as domestic workers in the Gulf are being sold online via apps provided by Google and Apple, creating an 'online slave market'.

BBC News Arabic goes undercover in Kuwait to expose the unregulated black market for domestic workers, which deprives them of basic human rights.

The involvement of Silicon Valley tech giants in promoting apps that facilitate this online slave market is deemed illegal.

In Kuwait, the high employment rate of domestic workers contrasts with the government's efforts to pass laws in 2015 to protect their rights.

New laws in Kuwait have sparked controversy and driven the growth of an unregulated online industry for buying and selling domestic workers.

Ann Abunda, founder of Sandigan, an organization fighting for domestic workers' welfare and rights, is featured in the investigation.

The BBC team uses the 4Sale app, available on Apple App Store and Google Play, to undercover the sale of domestic workers.

The 4Sale app allows users to filter by race, violating both Kuwaiti and international law.

Domestic workers are priced between $2,500 and $5,000, and the app's features facilitate illegal practices such as passport confiscation and denial of days off.

The issue is not limited to Kuwait, with similar practices found in Saudi Arabia on the Haraj app and on Facebook-owned Instagram.

Many sellers use racist and discriminatory language on these platforms, often without the knowledge of the women being sold.

The 'Kafala' system is highlighted as a factor contributing to the vulnerability of domestic workers, tying them to their sponsors.

Apps like 4Sale and Haraj enable the illegal sale of domestic worker sponsorships, bypassing agencies and regulations.

A BBC undercover team encounters a seller offering a child domestic worker for sale, revealing the extent of modern slavery practices.

UN Special Rapporteur Urmila Bhoola comments on the illegality and human rights violations of the practices uncovered.

Ann Abunda works with the Guinean Embassy and local authorities to try and rescue 'Fatou', a 16-year-old girl being sold.

Despite Kuwait's liberal laws, the investigation shows a lack of enforcement and prosecution of those violating domestic workers' rights.

Fatou is eventually found and deported back to Guinea, but the online slave market continues to thrive with no new regulations.

Tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook are urged to take responsibility for hosting apps that facilitate modern slavery.

The investigation concludes with a call for stricter regulations from tech giants and governments to prevent the exploitation and abuse of domestic workers.

Transcripts
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