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A banner hung by protesters in a Hong Kong mall. The protesters demonstrated against alleged workers' rights violations at the factories that produce Apple products, September 2011. Photo: Felix Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Apple paid an outside firm to lobby Congress on legislation targeting American companies working in areas in China that may use forced labor, The Information first reported. It remains unclear whether Apple lobbied against or for the bill.

Why it matters: Apple has faced scrutiny over the years regarding the human impact behind the manufacturing of its popular products.

Between the lines: In March, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released a report alleging that several Chinese suppliers for Apple used thousands of displaced Uighur Muslims — which are currently the target of a campaign of cultural genocide in the region of Xinjiang — for forced labor.

  • Apple said in July that it conducted a detailed investigation of Nanchang O-Film Tech, which was added by the Department of Commerce to an export blacklist over its alleged involvement in Xinjiang human rights abuses, and "found no evidence of any forced labor on Apple production lines."
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a congressional hearing in July that "forced labor is abhorrent, and we would not tolerate it in Apple," but did not specifically state whether the company would sever ties with suppliers that use it.

The big picture: According to congressional records, lobbying firm Fierce Government Relations lobbied for Apple on the "Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act," which seeks to pressure American companies to ensure that their supply chains do not depend on forced labor.

  • The legislation specifically targets the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has been operating mass detention facilities that hold 1 million or more Muslim ethnic minorities since 2017.
  • The Chamber of Commerce released a statement shortly after the legislation was introduced in September saying they oppose the bill because it "would prove ineffective and may hinder efforts to prevent human rights abuses."

Apple and other tech companies have previously been accused of sourcing raw materials from African mines that purportedly rely on child labor. Apple supplier Foxconn also faced allegations of abusive conditions that led to a spate of suicides about a decade ago.

Go deeper: Subsidiary of world's largest shirtmaker put on U.S. blacklist over Xinjiang ties

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated Jan 27, 2021 - Technology

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Credit: Apple

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations were "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 6 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand, which were later lifted.