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Facebook Gets Tougher On Gun Sales

    March 5, 2014
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Facebook has come under fire recently for enabling users to buy and sell firearms illegally. Now, the company has announced some new efforts to try and crack down on it.

Will Facebook’s efforts make a difference? Do they go far enough? Too far? Let us know what you think.

Last week, VentureBeat reported on an investigation, finding that it took only fifteen minutes to buy an illegal weapon on Facebook. Here’s an excerpt:

On Tuesday, a VentureBeat reporter and his colleague spent less than 15 minutes arranging to buy a semiautomatic 7mm rifle and 90 rounds of ammunition from a guy named “Dave,” a member of Facebook “Firearms Only Alamogordo” fan page (left).

VentureBeat made contact through the fan page, and in the ensuing SMS chat, Dave expressed an eagerness to do the deal. The gun was in good condition, he explained.

When a VentureBeat reporter asked Dave if they needed to bring identification to complete the sale, his response was an immediate “no.”

Earlier in February, Moms Demand Action put out a “look back” video-like look at gun sales on Facebook that got the company some negative attention on the matter.

“Of course, most of our tools are free to use, and many people and organizations use them to establish a presence on Facebook, including to promote commercial transactions,” says Facebook head of global policy management Monika Bickert. “While people can’t use our services to actually sell things to each other, they can set up a Page or make an occasional post to their Timeline to find a roommate, sell a home, or solicit contributions for a church or nonprofit organization. Just like posting on a bulletin board at a supermarket or community center, these activities may be considered commercial, but we treat this type of sharing like any other type of sharing on our services – and we respond to reports when something violates our Community Standards.”

“People sometimes use our free tools to discuss products that are regulated or controversial,” she adds. “In some cases they promote these products for sale or use, even though it’s not possible to complete a sale on Facebook or Instagram. While we’ve recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms, this is one of many areas where we face a difficult challenge balancing individuals’ desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere.”

It should be noted that Facebook already has a system in place for keeping weapons out of Facebook ads.

New efforts include: anytime Facebook gets a report about a post promoting the private sale of a “commonly regulated item” it will send a message to the person reminding them to comply with relevant laws and regulations; Facebook will limit access to that post to people over the age of 18; Facebook will require Pages primarily used to promote the private sale of commonly regulated items to include language reminding people of relevant laws/regulations, and once again limit access to people over 18 if required by law; Facebook will provide in-app education on Instagram for those searching for firearms sales and promotions.

“We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law,” says Bickert. “For example, private sellers of firearms in the U.S. will not be permitted to specify ‘no background check required,’ nor can they offer to transact across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer.”

Facebook has worked with a number of organizations and individuals including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Sandy Hook Promise, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action to come up with its new efforts, which will take effect in the coming weeks.

Last year, Facebook made gun-related headlines when it shut down a Pennsylvania gun store’s AR-15 giveaway promotion without warning.

Groupon has also been at the center of gun controversy. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the company put a stop to deals featuring gun-related offers (including shooting ranges, conceal-and-carry and clay shooting), but later began offering them again.

Facebook’s new efforts are already drawing negative reactions from gun rights advocates.

H. Craig Bradley writes in the comments of a Wall Street Journal story, “It’s not Facebook’s role to interfere in free speech on the internet. Offering to sell guns across state lines is already regulated and policed by the Federal Government ( Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). It’s illegal….”

Others have offered similar thoughts.

We have seen people get arrested after posting gun pics on the social network. Last summer, for example, 28-year-old Alain Ramirez of Miami was arrested after posting pics of himself with a gun on Facebook, after a burglary conviction which was supposed to keep away from guns. Police simply checked his Facebook page after receiving a tip, and found the incriminating photos.

But for those who would like purchasing illegal firearms on Facebook to not be so easy (again, VentureBeat did it in fifteen minutes), the new changes are welcome.

Moms Demand Action said in a statement, “These are real, common-sense policies — and they’re going to make Facebook safer for all users.”

Founder Shannon Watts said:

American moms are gratified that Facebook and Instagram have agreed to take meaningful steps to prevent illegal gun sales to children and dangerous people on its platforms.

Our campaign showed how easy it is for minors, felons and other dangerous people to get guns online – that’s why moms and more than 230,000 Americans signed our petition, tweeted and used social media to ask Facebook and Instagram to do something about gun sales facilitated on their networks. We are happy that these companies listened to American mothers and we believe these changes are a major step toward making sure people who buy or sell guns on their platforms know the law, and follow it. Moms are particularly pleased that Facebook will block minors from seeing posts about gun sales or trades, and that we can be confident that these social networks will be safe spaces for our kids.

There’s still so much to be done – by corporations, by Congress, and by local leaders – to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Moms have momentum and we’re moving the country toward a culture of gun safety one company, one legislator, one law at a time. We’re going to keep applying pressure to corporations and political leaders until they do more to reduce the gun violence that plagues our country. We’re not going away, and we will not stop until we’ve done everything we can to keep our children and communities safe.

What do you think of Facebook’s new efforts? Let us know in the comments.

Image via YouTube

  • wertwert

    Bullshit article… only gun dealers are required to do background checks. Private sales are still protected by the constitution in the US. Background checks don’t stop people from going crazy. Background checks don’t stop criminals and kids from getting ahold of guns. These are problems worth solving, but not everything involving a firearm is illegal as the article suggests in the first sentence. Background checks wont stop anyone from buying parts and assembling a gun, 3d printing a gun, or learning the fabrication skills to hand make exact replicas. None of those are illegal either.

  • BoiseBoy

    Doesn’t go far enough. There should be an outright ban on sales of arms on Facebook and Instagram. Too many crazies in America with easy access to guns.

    • Lincoln

      Too many crazies in America with easy access to keyboards.
      Just because you don’t like an amendment, doesn’t give you the right to ignore it. Private individual transactions are not subject to the same background check restrictions that business are. And background check or not, it’s still illegal for a felon or “crazy” (your term, not mine) to possess a firearm. Because they bought it from a private individual doesn’t exempt them from the law. Oh wait, that’s right… people like you believe that if we outlaw guns, criminals will magically start respecting the law and they simply won’t carry guns any longer. So what’s the problem? By your logic, everyone buying a gun on FB is legally allowed to carry one. Or are you admitting the criminals will ignore your gun bans?

      • Adams

        Great answer. Sounds like a lot of those “crazies” are at facebook. Facebook, really is there any need for it? I don’t want to know what you had for lunch today or whether it was fantastic. Maybe facebook should disappear, then all the bad things on the internet would go away.

    • Bantu

      The only crazy people are the ones that think they have the right to deny self-defense to others.

    • Havock

      BoiseBoy..it’s uneducated people such as yourself that are the problem..Ban the guns you say..what’s next knives..rocks..When does the stupidity stop

    • aaron43

      And these crazies should be in jail or else a mental institution. Law abiding citizens’ rights should not be infringed on.

  • Nate

    Absurd restrictions that will do absolutely nothing to change the status quo. Who in their right mind is going to put up a FB post that says “Firearm for sale. No background check. Willing to transport across state lines”? No one… that’s who! Just like always, the post is going to state “Firearm for sale. Call or text me @ ______”. The rest of the transaction occurs outside of FB and cannot be monitored or regulated by FB. Even the ATF would have a nearly impossible time catching a case and tracking it down before the deed is done. It’s truly comical to watch gun hating pinkos waste time and money in the pursuit of rules and regulations that will have absolutely zero impact on those of us that honor the U.S. Constitution.

  • aaron43

    Not impressed with Facebook at all, It fosters nothing more than but a bunch of social media fruitcakes. Why don’t pay their fair share of taxes instead of moving offshore with their money.

  • http://mikecurleymusic.com/ Michael David Curley

    That’s fine, everyone’s over at ebay’s house, and Zuckerberg charges for likes…

  • concernedforkids

    I am so astonished that nobody recognizes that most Criminals or people who are thinking about becoming a criminal do not buy guns from internet media sites. Most get their guns by stealing them, either out of someones house, car or pawn shop, etc. Remember, they want to remain anonymous. If your on a social media site the FBI can find you, anywhere, anytime, with any User ID. So I guess what I am trying to say is, you can’t police everybody. Further, I see a BIGGER problem we have with social media sites and thats stalkers and child molestors online, as well as little girls enticing these crazies online. So where are the parents? If we are gonna make the net safer, I think we need to start with that. Guns can be bought any day, any time, by anyone, with money! You wont remove the guns from the criminals, ever! But you will remove the from the law abiding citizens.

  • Boudreaux

    If they spent HALF as much effort deleting the porn that plahues FB – their efforts would be better rewarded. This is an incredibly ingnorant and drama/pashion driven knee jerk reaction.
    The two sites I frequent are legal, well goverened and caters to discriminating gun owners who trade not only firearms but also shooting and hunting supplies. Last I checked – hunting and shooting sports were not ILLEGAL in this country. LEgal Ownership is not banned. To quote the politically enflammed Mothers and other drama groups only fosters more pandemonium and confusion. If FB pursues these intents – watch the impact it has on stack price, exodus from the genre and guess what? Legal gun owners will continue to trade and communicate – using another venue.
    Hype driven mental masturbation thats what this.

  • Dave W

    In shocking news, it was revealed today that people can use the internet to conduct perfectly legal transactions. That’s right, boys and girls, the internet is allowing buyers and sellers of completely legal items to contact each other, with the intent of engaging in lawful commerce.
    Clearly, this is a threat to our civilization

  • Arizona Resident

    Depending on the state the individuals live in the sale may not be illegal. If the seller and buyer do no not cross state lines and the state they live lives in allows private gun sales the sale is not illegal. As for illegal guns. Unless you are talking about a sawed off shotgun or full automatic manufactured after 1986 the gun is not illegal. These days the media don’t do a fact check when it comes to many anti-gun articles that are published in a effort to promote the anti-American, anti-Second Amendment, and in some cases anti-State Constitution agenda.

    If the federal government wants to have sellers do background checks on their buyers, there is one simple thing they could do but so far the federal government refuses to implement as it don’t fit their agenda. The federal government can open up the instant background check to everyone to use and make it free of charge. It is already illegal to sell to someone who is prohibited from owning a firearm. Offer immunity to anyone who uses the system and make it easy enough to sellers will voluntarily check their buyers.. We don’t need any new laws or restriction.

    Facebook blocking gun sales will be just as effective in reducing crime as blocking the sale of drugs and we all know how well that works.

  • psub

    Facebook is not the police dept. nor NSA or any other authority. If you are going to shut down free speech on social web sites or filter responses so as to control written thoughts and/or feelings, then shut it down. Don’t tell me I can jump in the water and then designate a one inch square I must fit in!