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Apple, Samsung, and Sony Face Child Labor Claims ( 187

An anonymous reader writes: Amnesty International has accused Apple, Samsung, Sony, and other tech companies of failing to do basic checks to ensure minerals used in their products are not mined by children. A new report explains how cobalt is harvested from mines by children as young as seven years old. The cobalt then ends up in lithium-ion batteries sold to device-makers throughout the world. The list of companies who use these batteries also includes Daimler, Dell, HP, Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Vodafone, Volkswagen, and ZTE. Amnesty International notes that half the world's cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where many mining operations have terrible track records for accidents and concern for workers' welfare. They say, "the vast majority of miners spend long hours every day working with cobalt without the most basic of protective equipment, such as gloves, work clothes or facemasks to protect them from lung or skin disease." According to UNICEF, about 40,000 kids worked in mines across southern DRC in 2014.
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Apple, Samsung, and Sony Face Child Labor Claims

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  • This article singles out a few companies, but are there any companies which produce mobile devices who are not as involved as Apply, Samsung, and Sony?

    • Not Blackberry - all their phones are 100% built by Native Mountie Craftsmen.

    • by Incadenza ( 560402 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @03:04PM (#51331185)
      Only Fairphone [].
    • Because they only target the companies who they can potentially blackmail to get to "donate" to Amnesty International in order to save face, or setup a program that Amnesty International will "oversee" for a "fee". A Chinese company would laugh in their face.
    • by drnb ( 2434720 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @04:13PM (#51331731)
      Hypocrites. Amnesty International workers and members who use an Apple, Samsung or Sony phone or laptop are just as "guilty" as Apple, Samsung or Sony.

      Amnesty International is no better than the ambulance chasing lawyer looking for the person/organization with the deepest pockets to exploit rather than going after the truly guilty. In this case Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd.
      • Nice to know you admit to being an ass-hole.
        • by drnb ( 2434720 )
          Why the anger, did you just now realize your hands are not as clean as you imagined?
  • by truck_soccer ( 4286027 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @02:45PM (#51331033)
    They have to be accountable for the actions of a 3rd party? I understand sourcing responsible materials is ethically and morally sound, but there has to be a point at which the blame is on the supplier and not the buyer....right?
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @02:53PM (#51331103) Journal

      Its hard question. At some point it becomes very difficult to know even if you want to known where things are coming from. If you buy "finished" battery cells as a unit, how all the various things that went into them were sourced might not be discoverable easily, its not like your supplier is going to necessarily give you all the details on their suppliers, especially if they are in a different country with radically different regs.

      The clothing industry has been dealing with this for two decades now. Certainly there are fewer inputs to a tea length dress, than a high density ultra light battery and the clothing industry can't seem to figure it out. I don't know how the tech industry could.

      The trouble is if you excuse ignorance, that invites willful ignorance and allows the abuse to continue.

      • There was a great video on the topic by John Oliver as to how exactly how clothing companies have been "dealing" with the same issue. Basically it is about plausible deniability. Except in this analogy (Tech VS Clothing), it is another degree of separation. Company A (Clothing/Technology Company) deals with a Company B (Supplier) usually in China/India/Etc... and is told to adhere to code of ethics. Company B subcontracts out to Company C and D (also Suppliers). Company C and D subcontract out to Companies

    • And mining has to be waaay down the subcontrator chart. I can't fathom blaming Apple for how materials are mined.

      • Well, now you can. The cat is out of the bag. It's the point of the article.

        At this point, Apple now knows child labor is being used in their products, so are you going to give them a pass from today going forward? Maybe, maybe not. But I am guessing where we are in 2016, the majority of people would expect Apple to cut all ties unless they fixed it.

        • okay, the cat is out of the bag.

          Will you still buy a Samsung phone? If not, will you buy any phone? You see, the problem is they *all* have the same problem that some portion of their supply chain may (and probably does) include some form of worker abuse.

          So: do you throw out your phone that was produced on the backs of children? Why not? You have been informed and can no longer deny that you are profiting from child labor (and other forms of abuse).

          Unless you:

          1) grow or hunt all of your own food
          2) only util

        • When you go to the fuel pump to put more fuel in your car, can you be 100% sure that all the way back to the hole in the ground where the oil was pumped out, that there wasn't a labor violation of some kind?

          What are you going to do about that? Because that's what you are asking of Apple / Samsung / Sony here, except it's even harder for them, because they are buying components made out of refined materials, not the refined materials.

    • The trouble is, the "nth party removed" defense has been used and abused so much that activists have got wise.
      You think a company like Apple does not have incredibly competent buyers, with years of experience and great knowledge of exactly, but exactly, where their stuff comes from, even "n" layers removed?
      Equally, you think they don't have clauses in their T&Cs specifying that their suppliers' suppliers' suppliers don't boil fairies and castrate unicorns to make the product?
      Sure they do.
      And everybody k

    • This is not about responsibility or picking the "right" targets. They could have singled out Apple, Samsung and Sony because they get parts from companies who get sub-parts from companies who source their raw materials from mines where the company-provided lunch is delivered daily by *horror* CHILDREN.

      The point is: if Amnesty brings this up with Foxconn, that company will just laugh at them and the public will ask "who the hell is Foxconn?". By going after Apple and Sony, they create much more awarenes
    • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @03:41PM (#51331461) Journal

      Ethically and morally sound?

      Ridiculous drivel.

      Tell me this: If their economy is so great that jobs are abound, that children need not work, that adults enjoy the great luxuries of running water and steak dinner every night, then *why* do they send their children to the mines? What sadistic creature would send their own child to labor under heathens in unsanitary, deleterious conditions unfit for man or beast?

      I'm sure you feel very proud of yourself for sending these children off to starve, saving them the pain of calloused hands, abused joints, and scarred lungs. It seems very ethical to take away a man's food when that food is not fit for men of dignity, and leave him hungry so as to save him from such savagery.

    • ...there has to be a point at which the blame is on the supplier and not the buyer...

      Blame accomplishes nothing. Boycotting would.

    • If they are to blame, then you and I are also to blame for buying their product. The chain of blame doesn't magically end when it comes to me.
    • They have to be accountable for the actions of a 3rd party? I understand sourcing responsible materials is ethically and morally sound, but there has to be a point at which the blame is on the supplier and not the buyer....right?

      At some point. Whaddya bet the people at Amnesty Int'l are still using iPhones?

    • They have to be accountable for the actions of a 3rd party? I understand sourcing responsible materials is ethically and morally sound, but there has to be a point at which the blame is on the supplier and not the buyer....right?

      Yes, absolutely, buyers should be blameless. Especially the Amnesty international workers and supporters who use Apple, Samsung or Sony phones or laptops.

    • If they know it's happening then they need to cut ties with the supplier even if it's not ideal. No knowing or pretending not to know is a whole other.

      In this case they know because it's been presented to them time and time again.

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )

        If they know it's happening then they need to cut ties with the supplier even if it's not ideal.

        So you're basically saying that all companies everywhere should just stop making stuff. Because companies like Apple, Samsung and Sony are already using the most reputable suppliers there are in the business. And apparently that is not enough.

    • In this case, Amnesty's report [] indicates that the complete chain is a bit longer than the summary suggests. In fact, the full chain is more like:
      Miners in the DRC using child labor ->
      Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM) ->
      Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd (CDM's parent company) ->
      three battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea ->
      battery makers ->

      Moreover, while child labor is horrible and needs to be stopped, Amnesty's headline of "Exposed: Child

    • because if you don't it becomes a quick wink and a nod situation. If you look at bank laws they focus on intent so that you can't say one thing and do another. But then again bank laws matter to the rich, laws against child labor? Well I guess they matter, in so much as they actively oppose them [].
  • by carlhaagen ( 1021273 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @02:52PM (#51331101)
    ...always swear themselves free of participation in this, in particular Android users. Not a troll post. Just think about what camp it is always bringing this up, in particular with fingers pointed on Apple, never Samsung, never LG, never HTC etc.
    • Amnesty International has accused Apple, Samsung, Sony,

      I believe they just pointed the finger at Samsung and Sony so your "never" statement is untrue.

    • in particular with fingers pointed on Apple, never Samsung,

      You mean never as in like the title of this very story which doesn't count because REASONS.

      Apple is one of the largest,most visible and most profitable companies. They're going to catch flak for exploiting child labour because they can afford not to. They could devote $1bn per year to researching these things and that would cut into their net profit by under 1%.

      They should catch flak.

      The fact that others should catch flak too doesn't in any way excu

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      ...always swear themselves free of participation in this, in particular Android users. Not a troll post. Just think about what camp it is always bringing this up, in particular with fingers pointed on Apple, never Samsung, never LG, never HTC etc.

      Such bitterness from Apple trolls.

      All you've done there is throw together a bunch of random company names after a half baked accusation at Android users.

      I dont hate to break this to you but a lot of companies actually take steps to ensure their components are sourced as best they can and that they are fair to their workers. LG in particular who Chinese workers get the same pay and conditions as their Taiwanese workers, same with Asus (both Taiwanese companies, the Taiwanese government comes down hard

  • So, the problem is that their miners are minors, then?
  • http://www.conflictfreesourcin... []
    I would love to know what this initiative really do and what there need to fix the problem.

  • Whilst their siblings worked in the mills because they were small enough to crawl into the machinery and would be lucky if they came out alive?

    Sure, we have moved on from child labour, but it took time and social / economical development to achieve. Why should we then suddenly impose our current position upon a developing nation?

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      Why should we then suddenly impose our current position upon a developing nation?

      Because the best way for them to develop is to stop using child labor and start educating their children in things that bring value in the international market.

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        like sitting behind a computer all day while the world eats our manufacturing base? Even Gary Kildall said its no problem cause everyone in America are innovators, and what a load of horseshit that 1980's mentality has turned out to be

        let them run their own damn country for once, we are not the world's nanny

        • The qualifier is retarded. Information work is useful, but not "because everyone in America are innovators". We are still making things; they're less tangible.

      • You need a market before you can have progress. Granted, improving infrastructure can create productivity; that requires an investment of wealth, which requires productivity. Either they labor and produce and trade their labor, thus increasing their wealth by increasing their productive output per capita (and trading it to other nations to buy things they have no means to produce), and then apply this wealth to the development of new, more productive means; or we essentially invade, claim the mantle of be

        • by TheSync ( 5291 )

          Here is what is going on in DRC:

          ...the DRC's level of economic freedom remains among the lowest in the world, still well within the "repressed" category. Inadequate institutions make the formation of a vibrant private sector difficult...

          ...An uncertain legal framework, conflicts with armed militias for control of eastern Congo's rich mineral deposits, endemic corruption, and a lack of transparency in government policy are long-term problems for the mining sector and the economy as a whole. Protection of p

          • So they have political troubles. An industrial society would deal with that--have you seen the tax structure and government corruption in the United States?--and still get along fine. An industrial society would also already have active markets, with high demand for products.

            As humans designed new production methods using machines, the demand for steel increased. Note that a production method requiring 200 labor-hours won't replace itself with a machine-driven production method requiring 50 labor-hours

            • by TheSync ( 5291 )

              have you seen the tax structure and government corruption in the United States?

              Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for the USA is 74/100, for DRC it is 22/100, a rating that ranks it 154th out of 175 countries. Not quite the same thing.

              • Corporate taxes are near 40% in the US. Free trade tariff of 11% is unimpressive, but I get the difference in income tax versus a tariff: a tariff behaves more like an increased labor cost (it raises the monetary expenditure of production, same as having no tax and increasing wages or labor time per volume production). You can compare these as long as you don't take them as direct analogs.

                The US government frequently works by bribes, power plays, and other unsound behavior. This brings favoritism lea

        • Holy crap. A truly intelligent, insightful post that understands the big picture is far more complex than X is bad and Y is good.

          I'm not sure how to react. Please say something inflammatory and insulting instead.

    • Sure, we have moved on from child labour,

      Indeed, we and we also understand that paying other people to shove children down mines is not functionally different from shoving them down there ourselves.

      Why should we then suddenly impose our current position upon a developing nation?

      We don't. They can shove children down mines all day long on their own dime. But we collectively realised we don't want to be responsible for it so we are not going to pay them to use child labour.

    • by orlanz ( 882574 )

      Because it is not the same thing. We are talking about Africa, not China, their dictators basically enslave the people using the very weaponry the developed world produces. At what point do we say, "No, we should intervene"? Do we let the child soldiers in Africa roam free looting and pillaging their people & resources so that the master can buy higher end weapons from us to support his effort? Hitting closer to home, if the South won the Civil war, became a nation, and kept slavery; should northern

      • but can't we atleast say that labor shifts can't be more than 9 hours long? The underlying reason being that 1 person working for 16 hours is less effective than 2 people working 8 each?

        You can say that, but it doesn't work.

        The person just has 2 jobs with two 8 hour shifts and now has to move between two jobs.

        In fact, depending on how things are setup, the 2 people might swap jobs, moving between 2 buildings at the 8 hour point, with each building "owned" by a different company, but really not.

        You're trying to change economics by decree, it just doesn't work. Too many external factors are at play.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @03:09PM (#51331229) Homepage Journal

    In keeping with his current theme, Candidate Trump claimed that if the supply line is the problem to Apple making their products here, he will allow *American* seven-year-olds to mine for Cobalt in the United States, making America Great Again and competitive in the world.

  • That's Horrible!

    Sent from my iPhone.
  • by TheSync ( 5291 )

    Here is what one is dealing with in the DRC:

    The Democratic Republic of Congo remains plagued by wide-ranging conflict between government forces that historically have been backed by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe and rebels supported by Uganda and Rwanda. Much of the eastern part of the country remains embroiled in conflict. In 2006, Joseph Kabila won the first multi-party election in 40 years. He was re-elected in December 2011 in a flawed and violent election. Rebel groups including the Lord's Resistance A

  • Now that Fairphone 2 is shipping, there is no excuse not to get a more ethical phone. (Its also quite a nice phone, modular, repairable, runs multiple OSs)

This is an unauthorized cybernetic announcement.