It seems like the WSJ’s entire San Francisco bureau has been preoccupied lately with churning out a series of stories sourced from “leaked” internal Facebook documents exposing embarrassing internal reports on everything from Instagram’s deleterious impact on the mental health of its twentysomething and teenage users to political divisiveness to – today’s entry – how Facebook’s products are abused to facilitated human trafficking and terror recruitment in parts of the emerging world.
The gist of the piece is this: Facebook has a small staff dedicated to combating human trafficking around the world, particularly in countries where the rule of law isn’t as robust as it is in the US and Europe. In the Middle East, Facebook is used to lure women into sex slavery (or some other form of exploitative labor).
In Ethiopia, armed groups use the site to recruit and to incite violence against other ethnic minorities.
Facebook’s monitors have also sent reports to their bosses on everything from human organ trafficking, pornography and child pornography, and government’s cracking down on political dissent.
The documents leaked to WSJ show that while Facebook removes some pages, many continue to operate openly.
While some might sympathize with Facebook’s inability to whack every mole (after all, they’re fighting a never-ending torrent of misconduct). But the sad truth is that Facebook could do more to stop its platform from being abused by traffickers, criminals and abusers – particularly in the emerging world (we all remember what happened in Myanmar).
The reason it doesn’t is because that would be bad for business”, according to a former chief executive who resigned from the company last year. Facebook treats harm in developing countries as “simply the cost of doing business” in those places, said Brian Boland, a former Facebook vice president who oversaw partnerships with internet providers in Africa and Asia before resigning at the end of last year.
Facebook has focused its safety efforts on wealthier markets (like the US) where powerful government and media institutions can help keep it accountable. But in smaller countries, Facebook answers many problems with a shrug.