Facebook and its popular picture uploading subsidiary, Instagram, have joined the fight against illegal gun sales by closing loopholes that have been taken advantage of by merchants over their networks. Facebook dropped the hammer on gun sellers by instituting new policies that place stringent criteria on merchants using the social network as its online marketing tool. Reports state that the changes are specifically to protect minors from obtaining guns and other weapons through Facebook without proper background checks. Reportedly it does not appear to stop any sales from occurring, Facebook has merely increased their communication and follow-up methods with sellers when a sale of an item such as a gun is identified. By removing any posts that do not require background checks and preventing underage users to see posts in the first place. Many small mom-and-pop gun shop owners are distressed at the increases in security; one owner out of Florida, Burnie Stokes, stated “What is happening is because a few people who are not playing by the rules are having to make the rest of us suffer because they want to be cute and think that it’s their right or privilege to engage in the sales of firearms.”
While Facebook itself is not a retail website it is a large advertising tool for potential millions of customers, and has reportedly already enforced stringent rules on other products, such as alcohol, tobacco, and pornographic material. “We work hard to find a balance between enabling people to express themselves about topics that are important to them, and creating an environment that is safe and respectful,” stated Monika Bickert, Facebook’s manager of Global Policy. Moms Demand Action, an organization that reportedly started as a Facebook page and now spread across the entire country; has taken a strong activist stance against the illegal sale of guns without background checks, and are fully in support of the increase in security Facebook is imposing on vendors.
Other companies like eBay and Craigslist have completely removed any ability from their respective websites for gun vendors to make sales of weapons altogether. Facebook, while not a retail website, still allows the marketing of weapons, but has made its ‘new rules’ to fight against advertising gun sales on their website to minors. The policy now also does away with what reporters have stated to be aiding in the legal sale of weapons. Oregon reportedly sold 40% of its guns without background checks. Moms Demand Action has been reported to take surveys in Oregon and work toward mutual understanding that their stance is not to take away guns from the public, but to bar convicted felons and minors from obtaining weapons illegally, their motto, “Silence no more,” is spreading. With Facebook’s new rules against guns, it appears that organizations like Moms Demand Action, are getting just that, action, and reportedly state that they are happy companies like Facebook have heeded their petitions.
Advocates against the policy changes by Facebook argue the merit of these changes without follow through toward what they perceive are similar types of threats. “Indeed, if we are to believe that celebrations of legal activity must eventually lead to off-stage violations of the rules, then we must be brutally consistent,” stated Charles Cook, National Review, and continued with “Should Facebook remove all of its muscle-car pages in case users who become over-excited by discussions of speed get together to drive too fast or tear up the roads without a license?” an opinion not shared by Moms Demand Action. Cook also stated, “Are ardent fans of popular entertainers to have their pages shuttered lest they start sharing copyrighted material or transferring show tickets in violation of the terms and conditions?”
Facebook and Instagram, reportedly may be making these changes in the wake of political pressures in the aftermath of many shootings throughout the US. Reports indicate over 11 shootings in schools within 19 days from January alone. These shootings, most of which occurred during school hours with students present, have caused the lives of two and injured over 11. This reported is only for the month pf January. 2013 saw 28 individual events involving school shootings, among them, Adam Lanza, who killed 20 elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut. While reporters and statistics continue to argue over the validity of policies against the sale of illegal guns and marketing these weapons to minors, Facebook has definitely joined the fight against guns and may be helping organizations like Moms Demand Action in actually getting the action they seek.
By Emanuel F. Camacho