Facebook’s New Policy To Ban Private Gun Sales On FB and Instagram

In a move meant to lock down on unlicensed gun transactions, Facebook, which has 1.59 billion monthly users, is banning private sales of its flagship social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service. Though Facebook and Instagram never directly sold guns to users, they each served as a medium for people to sell guns to each other in posts, as well as private groups, messages or pages, often without the need for a background check.

However, the move won’t affect licensed retailers, which can continue to market firearms on Facebook while completing transactions away from the social platform, said a spokesperson for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company. Instead, the measure is instead aimed to stop “‘peer-to-peer’ sales of weapons” on the site.

“Today, we are updating our policies for managing regulated goods to prohibit people from using Facebook to offer and coordinate private sales of firearms,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “The updated policy aligns more closely with our policies around commerce and advertising, which place similar restrictions on advertisements of regulated goods including pharmaceuticals, illegal drugs, and firearms.”

The move comes after US President Barack Obama and gun safety groups had been pressuring the company to stop allowing posts offering guns for sale to circulate on the site, reports the New York Times.

Mr Obama’s executive actions included background checks for all gun sellers and the need for states to provide information on people disqualified from buying guns due to mental illness or domestic violence.

“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,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy said in an email statement. She continued, “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.”

Shannon Watts, of the Everytown for Gun Safety campaign group, told Associated Press that Facebook “was unfortunately and unwittingly serving as an online platform for dangerous people to get guns.”

In two instances, the group said it had found evidence that guns had been bought on the site and used to kill others. Everytown for Gun Safety was one of a number of groups that had called on Facebook to change its policy.

Facebook said that it has systems in place to detect private gun sales and that it will remove content that violates its new policy. This is the second major action Facebook has taken on gun sales. In March 2014, the social network partly in response in to groups such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America had warned users against promoting private sales to comply with state and federal gun laws. Posts discussing firearms sales were restricted to users over 18.

Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg with this move has fallen in line with online marketplace eBay, ad networks like Google’s Adwords and digital classifieds player Craigslist in prohibiting the private sale of guns on their respective sites.

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