Silicon Valley’s Online Slave Market – full documentary – BBC News Arabic | BBC Africa Eye

Silicon Valley’s Online Slave Market – full documentary – BBC News Arabic | BBC Africa Eye

In the Gulf, women, employed as domestic workers,
are being sold online, via apps provided
by Google and Apple.
It’s been called an online slave market.
BBC News Arabic goes undercover in Kuwait
to expose this shocking and disturbing online trade.
It’s an unregulated black market depriving
women and children of their basic human rights,
leaving them at risk of exploitation and abuse.
All made possible by the Silicon Valley tech
What they are doing is illegal.
If Google, Apple, Facebook or any other company
is promoting apps like these, hosting apps
like these they are promoting an online slave market.
In Kuwait, 90% of households employ a domestic
worker – that’s one for every two Kuwaiti citizens.
The government of Kuwait passed a new law
in 2015, giving domestic workers more rights.
Together we are stronger.
And imposing stricter regulations on this
multi-billion dollar industry.
But it’s generated a lot of controversy.
These new laws have pushed many to turn to
a booming new industry, where domestic workers
are bought and sold online.
All you need is a Google or Apple smartphone.
Ann Abunda is the founder of Sandigan.
An organisation that fights for the welfare
and rights of domestic workers in Kuwait.
Our BBC team pose as a husband and wife looking
to buy a domestic worker.
For their safety we cannot reveal their identities.
We download an app called 4Sale, the most
popular commodity app in Kuwait, available
on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Amongst cars, lawnmowers, and TVs, there’s
a dedicated section where you can buy a domestic worker.
Our undercover team get ready to meet the
Our female undercover reporter stays inside
with the domestic worker.
This policeman was knowingly breaking the
He was trying to sell us his domestic worker,
he had confiscated her passport and didn’t
give her a day off.
All of which is illegal in Kuwait.
Over the course of a week, our undercover
team spoke to 57 users of 4Sale.
It has an inbuilt feature that lets you filter
by race, violating Kuwaiti law and international law.
The women cost between $2,500 and $5000 US dollars (or £2,000 and £4,000).
Under Kuwait’s domestic worker law it is
illegal not to give your domestic worker a
day off per week.
It’s also illegal for the employer to keep
hold of their domestic worker’s passport.
But it’s not only happening in Kuwait, and
4Sale is not the only app being used.
In Saudi Arabia we found hundreds of women
being sold on Haraj, another popular commodity app.
And on Facebook-owned Instagram we found
hundreds more.
Many sellers used racist and discriminatory
language as part of their sales pitch.
And in most cases, the women had no knowledge
they were being advertised online, and then sold.
Since 2010, Ann’s organisation, Sandigan, has rescued thousands of women from abusive households.
In Kuwait it’s illegal for a domestic worker
to run away from their employer.
Ann was never charged with a crime.
And since being released from prison she’s
dedicated her life to helping other vulnerable
domestic workers in Kuwait.
Under the “Kafala” system, domestic workers
are brought into the country by agencies and
then officially registered with the government.
Potential employers pay the agencies a fee
and become the official sponsor of the domestic worker.
Under the “Kafala” system, a domestic
worker cannot change or quit her job, nor
leave the country without her sponsor’s
Apps like 4Sale, Haraj and Instagram enable
employers to sell the sponsorship of their
domestic workers to other employers, for a
This bypasses the agencies and creates an
unregulated black market that leaves women
more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
A new ad appears on 4sale, an African domestic
worker for $3,800 US Dollars.
Our BBC undercover team arrange to meet the
Nothing can prepare them for what happens
We are shocked to find this woman offering
to sell us a child.
The young girl seems withdrawn and confused.
By employing a domestic worker under the age
of 21, this woman is breaking Kuwaiti law,
and could face up to six months in prison.
She had also confiscated the girl’s passport,
didn’t allow her any time off, or to leave
the house alone, all of which are illegal.
This is the quintessential example of modern
Here we see a child being sold and traded
like chattel, like a piece of property.
Urmila Bhoola is the UN special Rapporteur
on contemporary forms of slavery.
We see coercion and control being exercised
by the employer over this very vulnerable child.
What they are doing is illegal.
It is not only in violation of national Kuwaiti
It is a violation of international human rights
law and labour standards.
We take our video of the young girl to Ann.
Ann starts an investigation to see if she
can contact the 16-year-old girl, who, to
protect her identity, we will call ‘Fatou’.
Hello, hello sir.
She alerts the Guinean Embassy to see what
they can do.
The embassy needs her full name in order to
make inquiries.
Ann asks our BBC undercover team if we can
try to persuade the seller to give us Fatou’s
passport details.
The passport reveals her surname to be ‘Bongono,’
and her place of birth Conakry, the capital
city of Guinea.
Now that Ann has Fatou’s passport she goes
back to the Guinean Embassy.
She’s avoiding going directly to the Kuwaiti
authorities for fear that they could arrest
Fatou for being in Kuwait illegally.
We head to Guinea to see what the police can
do to help track down Fatou’s family.
They don’t have any record of her going
to Kuwait, but they introduce us to Jacques,
a policeman who has the same surname as Fatou.
Jacques decides to take time off his official
duties as a policeman to look for Fatou’s
family and see if they are aware of her situation.
He starts the search among the Bongono community
in Conakry.
Jacques continues his search amongst the Bongono
community in Conakry,
but no one recognises her.
Hundreds of underage girls are trafficked
from Guinea each year.
It’s a lucrative industry for traffickers,
and a last resort for families trying to escape poverty.
We arrange to meet a trafficker to find out
how a young girl like Fatou could end up in Kuwait.
He agrees to talk to us as long as we conceal
his identity.
As we’re filming, he spots two girls who
have recently returned from Kuwait.
See this one too?
There was nothing good there.
We arrange to meet Nana, Esther and another girl, Biba
away from the watchful eyes of the traffickers.
Like Fatou, Biba, Nana and Esther were all
underage when they went to work in Kuwait.
Biba, Nana and Esther met in prison, after
fleeing abusive employers.
The three girls were bailed out by their families.
But it’s estimated there are hundreds of
domestic workers languishing in prisons in Kuwait.
We also show them the 4Sale app.
Their experiences of being moved multiple times between employers without any choice
bear the signs of being bought and sold using the apps.
The majority of migrant domestic workers,
women workers, are extremely vulnerable to
exploitation in modern slavery.
They are in a strange environment, generally
unfamiliar with the language, not allowed
to communicate with their peers and live in
isolation often with the employer.
Here we see an example of how digital technology
is used negatively to violate their fundamental
human rights and to cause harm.
Google, Apple and Facebook all claim that
they prohibit modern slavery and human trafficking
on their platforms.
Google’s Policy Against Modern Slavery,
states that they are comitted to eliminating
modern slavery in all its forms.
Facebook’s own community standards say
they do not allow organisations or individuals
involved in human trafficking on their platforms.
And Apple’s App Store review guidelines
say that any discriminatory content including
references to religion, race, gender or ethnic
origin are banned.
But we found thousands of domestic workers
being illegally sold using discriminatory
language through hashtags used on Instagram
and other apps hosted by Google and Apple
in violation of their own guidelines, and
international law.
Back in Kuwait, Ann is desperately trying
to contact Fatou.
Despite sending the Guinean Embassy her passport
details, they haven’t taken any action.
Ann’s colleague doesn’t want to appear
on camera.
Now that Fatou’s been sold on, there’s
no way of locating her other than going to
the Kuwaiti government.
It’s a move that Ann has been avoiding,
as it often results in the arrest of the domestic worker.
In Guinea, Jacques decides to expand his search
for Fatou’s family to the remote forest
regions of the country where the Bongono
family come from.
It’s a 600 km drive from the capital.
We arrive in Mongo, a small market town in
Gueckedou, where many people are Bongonos.
Jacques hopes someone here will know Fatou’s
Word spreads that there is a girl missing,
and the room quickly fills with people.
Back in Kuwait, Ann’s search for Fatou has
also hit a dead end.
With no other options we take our video of
Fatou to the Kuwaiti authorities to see if
they can help find her.
Nasser al-Mousawi is Head of the Domestic
Workers Office.
It’s his job to manage complaints and disputes
between domestic workers and their employers.
When issues arise, Nasser calls in employers
and their domestic workers for questioning.
Taking money for the domestic workers, just
to transfer their residency.
Actually it has been going on for a long time
in Kuwait.
May al-Tararwah is a lawyer at Social Work
Society, an organisation in Kuwait that supports
domestic workers.
I think that the lady is not aware of this
being a crime.
She’s not aware of it.
So, she did it because she felt it’s normal
because she’s old fashioned and that’s
how they think.
Ten days later, the Kuwaiti authorities contact Ann.
There is good news.
They have found Fatou.
Ann arranges to meet Fatou at the state-run
shelter for domestic workers.
A government official is present and we’re
not allowed to film their conversation.
There are over 200 domestic workers in this
It’s intended as a temporary place for them
to stay while they’re fighting court battles
or awaiting deportation.
An hour later Ann returns.
Fatou told Ann she’d been in Kuwait for
nine months and worked for three households.
But during that time, she had only received
two months salary.
Two days later, Fatou was deported back to
Kuwait is one of the countries that has by
far one of the most liberal sets of laws in
the region protecting domestic workers.
Under Kuwaiti law it is illegal to advertise,
sell or enslave a domestic worker.
But despite this legal protection we see a
domestic worker and a child domestic worker
being sold in flagrant violation of law.
It leaves us wondering about the extent of
implementation of the laws that are meant
to protect workers.
And whether in fact any employers are prosecuted
for their violations of law.
As yet, Kuwait has not introduced any new
regulations to tackle the online market in
domestic workers.
The policeman and the woman who tried to sell
us Fatou did not provide us with a statement
and no legal action has been taken against
The Kuwaiti government declined comment further
on Fatou’s case.
Fatou is back in Conakry.
Her uncle and grandmother can’t afford to
take care of her so she’s living with an
adopted family.
Fatou didn’t want to show her face on camera,
but she wants her story to be heard.
Businesses have a fundamental responsibility
morally, ethically and legally to make sure
that under national law and international
law these apps are removed and they are no
longer available to the market.
If Google, Apple, Facebook or any other companies
are hosting apps like these they have to be
held accountable.
What they are doing is promoting an online
slave market.
The online slave market is still booming.
And there are still thousands of domestic
workers being bought and sold on Instagram,
Haraj, and other apps available on Google
Play and the Apple App Store.
Unless governments enforce their own laws
and the Silicon Valley tech giants apply stricter
regulations on their users, this online trade
will continue, leaving many women exposed
to exploitation and abuse.
Following our investigation, 4Sale, the app
which was used to sell Fatou, removed its
domestic workers section and gave us this
Facebook, which owns Instagram, told us:
But we found hundreds of posts on Instagram,
using similar hashtags, being used to sell
domestic workers.
Haraj, the commodity app used in Saudi Arabia,
did not provide us with a statement.
Google told the BBC:
And Apple said:

Posts created 8745

100 thoughts on “Silicon Valley’s Online Slave Market – full documentary – BBC News Arabic | BBC Africa Eye

  1. BBC is demonic and evil why would report. And leave the poor girl there and at the end you say poor child the importance of showing us thumbs down

  2. Six months in jail for using a child as a slave, like really now?? That is wrong a million times over. And just what god is she talking about? This woman is pure EVIL!! I hope they did find a way to take that child outta there and that woman should get at least 20 plus years in jail. god willing as according to her…

  3. Arabs do 3 things eat, fuck, sleep. They are tribel people with lots of money. Indian do everything from maid to manager's.

  4. DISGUSTING! The ironic thing is that Arabs would never stand to be treated like that? Unless, your like the girl at 02:35 talking all that shit but when your family, threaten to kill you, you want the worlds help? Karma is a Bitch

  5. Disheartening video but it has nothing to do with silicon valley.. stop misleading us!!

    Edit: where's the rest of the video?

  6. Manipulation. Yes football players are also bought and sold. Just because the app has that name the BBC run's with it. Be careful of BBC everyone. My girlfriend used to work in Saudi Arabia in a rural village for 3 years and she was treated with dignity and respect.

  7. 8:21 the maid asked; "Should I get my bag? " that question from her really broke my heart and made me drop tears. This is inhumane.

  8. It all comes down to responsibility, if we have our leaders investing and promoting companies or countries, who have little or no regard for human lives. We have better luck if we put pressure on our people.

  9. Arabs were the biggest slave traders in the world and yet there are no black communities in the middle East like can be seen in America and Europe. So how is it, the most notorious slave traders of all time have no black communities?

  10. Sometimes i feel like can call people to "Pray for Africa" but this is not the case. Basically it's our Leadership, this is the system created by Europeans. Africa is rich, Africans are intelligent,….but what is going on with Africa?. Plz fellows African, can't we change our world? Can't we change our motherland? I wish everyone can have this mind and work for the sake of our future. All giants Nations are scrambling for Africa, yet our African people are suffering allover the world and even in Arabian countries?. Shame on Europeans, the main cause of all these messes.

  11. And then people wonder why p;eople hate muslims and islam, they will hate gays in name of islam but when its about slave trade its alll gucci

  12. Arabs are the most racist group towards black and other minorities. You only have to look at North Africa and Arab history as well as their slave trade which eclipses the trans atlantic

  13. FINALLY, THIS IS BEING INVESTIGATED! So many girls have died posing as maids in some Arab countries!!!! (Uganda, Kenya to name a few!)

  14. Blaming Silicon Valley is nonsense though. We may as well blame car manufacturers for deaths caused by drunk driving

  15. It really hurts to notice that the Guinea immigration did nothing after getting the information😢😢, the reality is that our African leaders are selling our sons and daughters to the vultures just for economic favors😧😧. God watch over our sisters and daughters in the hands of this filthy creatures.

  16. what do they mean they dont know its wrong.. if you have to hide someone's passport, keep them locked up in the house and prevent them from speaking to their family clearly u know ure doing something wrong.

  17. If you are from Middle East read my comment.By 2025 Africa, will be close to 80% Christian because of your mistreatment of African girls who come to work in your homes.You take their kidneys and organs and some of them you rape them.Is that what Islam says?But for every muslim girl who comes back to Africa alive to tell the story of her mistreatment ,that is an entire household ready to become Christian. As Churches are busy sponsoring African children for education,you are busy mistreating girls.How do you mistreat even a fellow muslim? But thanks to you, many come back to Africa and become born again Christians and they are loved and cared for.Every belief has to show its true colors and those are your true colors.

  18. I'm praying for u people. Cant imagine how greeds can do to these vile people. When we just have to be compassionate and understanding towards other. Cant stop from crying, how sad.

  19. Please do not let Arabic culture make you condemn all muslims. All arabs are not muslims and all muslims are not arabs.
    This is a cultural issue of a highly ethnocentric and materialistic people that have no respect for workers in general and in all fields.
    Anyone involved in this should be ashamed of themself !

  20. some people are so inhuman to an extent they go selling others. This is so wicked but remember he who lives by the sword dies……..

  21. Many young senegalese suffered because they tried to find à job in saoudi arabia… Raped, beaten and kidnapped by barabaric People and our governement did not move a finger to save them..

  22. Why are we surprised that google,apple and the likes support things like this?, these company's were also found from slave labour too so is no surprise at all

  23. It's actually disgusting to think that we're taught that slavery is over but it's still very much going on in parts of the world as normal

  24. Arabs are usually associated with slave trade. It is in their DNA. Unless they get genetically modified, this illegal problem will never end.
    Slave trade is also near legal in Yemen.

  25. Apologies for a technical glitch that resulted in this documentary being cut off early for some viewers – this should now be resolved. Thanks for watching and for your comments.

  26. Instead of pointing fingers at big tech can we propose a solution?
    How do you think big tech can verify the services provided by apps?
    PS: we are talking about millions of apps.
    Should verification by done by an independent and trusted company?
    Humans are Evil, YES! But we can't win the fight by pointing fingers guys!

  27. So dissappointed with BBC, how could you leave a vulnerable child at the hands of traffickers who might even kill her to cover their tracks? Come on, you could have done better. Only that there is a sort of a happy ending

  28. They paid all that money to fly to Guinea instead of buy her and send her home, shocking and stupid.

    They could buy a lot of these people and send them home. they could have reported all those people and given the details to the police

    Argggghh this is so annoying…

  29. Arabs are idiots ! They are hated here in Europe and seen as illiterate people who depend and social walfare and don't want to work !

  30. Is this not illegal in their country? I’m pretty sure the only way apple and google would discontinue these apps is if they were breaking the law.
    The creators of this app obviously are using some kind of a loop hole for them to go unnoticed. Eg a cleaning hire maid (just like in the uk, they’re very legal) instead of a for sale of a slave add
    Not sure if that makes sense but yeah

  31. BBC I get you to want all these tech giants companies to be held liable… but what are you guys doing to eradicate this problem.. I mean great reporting but why did you allow them to keep the first lady knowing very well you had the resources to help her or the little girl; instead of making a story out of them. Before you point fingers to other parties, ask yourselves what exactly are you doing to help because reporting is doing the bare minimum. You could have and should have done more!!

  32. Arabs are soooo racist.Pray 20 times a day and do this to people. they going to hell. thanks to the whole team for helping this girl. God bless you all

  33. Still wondering why black women are stil going to work for arabs when they know theyl b slaves… when they are ready to stop bein sold theyl stop outting themselvs on harmway

  34. When will we learn from this atrocities???? 🤔 🤔 🤔 Are we willing to have a traumatised youth for our future all because our leaders are too greedy to actually give a future to this young one's??? Something needs to be done!!! This is sad and disgusting because we're handing over our youth to this racists entitled evil animals!

  35. Funny how arabs are quick to censor websites that promote pornographic materials but can't act swiftly on apps promoting modern slavery.

  36. Those Arabs are still backward they don't care. they don't have moral wealth. Google and Apple should delete these apps from their stores. thank you BBC for always opening our eyes

  37. As a child I didn’t know what the Arabs problem was but as I grew up— knowledge came to me. They are the first most racist people on the planet but hide behind their BS religion that is copied from Africa anyway. These are the problematic sand dwellers that pharaoh Taharka wrote about in ancient times. They are still sand dwellers and problematic thousands of years later— FACTS!

  38. Why is the narrator referring to the traffickers and kidnappers as agency/agent and employers….corrupted all around

  39. This is the common experience of domestic workers from Africa. African governments should do more to protect their citizens from these barbaric and inhuman acts. May God bless Africa!

  40. Never forget
    Joseph's brothers put him in a well to sell him to the ISHMAELITES…
    And they continued through the Transatlantic Slave trade.. now they are online… wow

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