Facebook outlined new rules today designed to stop users from illegally selling guns through its social networks. In a blog post, the social network giant said that it will limit posts on Facebook and Instagram discussing the sale of firearms to users over 18, warn people promoting the private sale of weapons to comply with relevant laws, and introduce "in-app education" on Instagram for those who search for gun promotions or sales. The new policies will be implemented and enforced in the next few weeks.
The social network said it would "not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law," explaining that private weapon sellers in the US will no longer be able to specify that buyers did not need a background check, and that unlicensed firearms dealers will not be allowed to sell guns across state lines.
Posts about private weapon sales will only be visible to users older than 18
Any posts reported to Facebook that do reference the private sale of guns will be restricted to viewers who have told the social network they are 18 or older, and the authors of such posts will be warned via a message to "comply with relevant laws and regulations." Pages that Facebook classes as "primarily used by people to promote the private sale of commonly regulated goods or services" will now need to include language that "clearly reminds people of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations," and will only be open to users who have indicated they are over 18.
Many dedicated online marketplaces such as Craigslist ban the sales of guns, but social networks such as Facebook and Instagram have had no such hard rules, leaving users free to post pictures of their weapons. Last year The Daily Beast reported on the sales and purchases of firearms over Instagram, as purchasers simply used hashtag filter Hashbag to search for weapons that were "#forsale," before arranging for their payment and delivery privately. In the blog post, Facebook acknowledges that, even though it's impossible to complete a sale through Facebook or Instagram, some of its users do promote firearms for private sale.
The NRA has claimed Facebook's policies infringe on citizens' rights
Facebook said it worked with "a number of individuals and organizations" in developing and drawing up the new regulations, including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. It also gave special thanks to groups set up with the aim of preventing gun violence that have been involved in a campaign to change Facebook's gun policies, including Sandy Hook Promise, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. John Feinblatt, chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, offered a joint statement with Moms Demand Action after the announcement of Facebook's new policies. "Our campaign exposed how simple it is for dangerous people to get their hands on guns, no questions asked — not only on Facebook and Instagram — but across the Internet."
But opposition groups have already complained about the new regulations. Chris Cox, executive director for the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, said groups such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns "tried to pressure Facebook into shutting down discussion of Second Amendment issues on its social media platforms." The NRA said the new policies would unconstitutionally limit the rights of gun owners.