This post has updates throughout.
After pressure from advocacy groups, Facebook and Instagram today unveiled new policies on
illegal gun sales enabled by interactions on the social networks.
We wrote in January that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America launched a campaign urging Facebook (and Instagram, the photo-sharing site it owns) to crack down on (update) sometimes (end update) illegal gun sales that were being facilitated on pages and accounts dedicated to the sale of firearms. Among other things, the group noted that such pages and accounts ignore, or even promote avoidance of, background checks where required.
“We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law. 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,” Monika Bickert, head of Global Policy Management at Facebook, said in a blog post today.
Bickert again stressed that Facebook and Instagram don’t actually allow sales transactions, but said the social networks will limit the visibility of posts about private sales of “regulated items” to people over the age of 18, and require pages to remind their fans of relevant laws. They will also remove posts that don’t comply with the rules — if they are flagged by others, a spokesman told us, (update) adding that pages that fail to apply the new policies could also be removed. (end update)
“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,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, in a statement. Facebook mentions that it also received “advice” from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Sandy Hook Promise and other groups.
(Update) Some gun-control groups say Facebook’s policies don’t go far enough: “A mere warning to follow the law and community-based reporting will not do enough to prevent unchecked gun sales to dangerous people,” said Daniel Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, in a statement. (end update)
Photo of machine guns from KRT archives