Facebook announced on Friday that it will no longer be allowing users to coordinate private gun sales on its website or on the photo-sharing service Instagram, which Facebook owns.
With over 1.6 billion active users, the social network has long been one of the largest places online for gun owners to post images of their firearms, arrange swaps, and plan sales. Most of these swaps are brokered in private groups, not through any feature offered by the social media website. Facebook already cracked down on private transfers in 2014 when it restricted gun-related posts from being viewed by minors and banned private sellers from conducting sales without a background check or across state lines if they lacked an FFL. Like then, Facebook is now relying on users to report violations of the new rule.
“Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another. We are continuing to develop, test, and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, wrote in an email to USA Today.
Facebook says the move to ban private gun sales is in line with its current policy with other items, such as marijuana, illegal drugs, and certain pharmaceuticals. Ammunition and certain gun accessories have also been added to that list alongside firearms.
Observers noted that the new announcement came after President Barack Obama’s new push for greater gun control and longtime pressure from gun control advocates. In a press release on Friday, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown for Gun Safety praised Facebook’s decision.
“We’re gratified that our continuous conversation with Facebook over the course of the last two years has culminated in the company prohibiting all unlicensed gun sales arranged on its platforms,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety.
“Two years ago, our campaign to get Facebook to change how their platforms host firearm sales resulted in nine new policies to curb children’s exposure to guns and to clarify state laws around selling and buying guns online. Our continued relationship with Facebook resulted in today’s even stronger stance, which will prevent dangerous people from getting guns and save American lives,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Facebook’s new ban did not come without criticism, especially from Second Amendment supporters who say the policy is an act of censorship. A number of groups dedicated to gun swaps or trades can no longer been seen on Facebook, but it is unknown at this time if they were shut down due to the new policy.
“ISIS using Facebook as a recruitment and propaganda tool is one thing, but American Citizens selling firearms to one another….that is just purely unacceptable,” wrote one commenter on The New York Time’s Facebook page.
“Won’t be long now soon you won’t be able to have an opinion on Facebook either,” wrote another on the Guardian’s Facebook page.
Facebook clarified that gun-related posts that do not indicate a sale or transfer are still allowed.
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