Facebook, the social media giant with over a billion users has made a commitment to fight gun sales that are facilitated on its website. This includes a whole array of gun safety measures like prohibiting advertisements that do not require a background check for a gun purchase. Most of the new measures are directed towards prohibiting minors from engaging in gun sales. As a result minors cannot see or engage in any posts regarding gun sales, trades or gun shows. In addition, whenever the company receives a complaint or a report about a user trying to organize a private sale of a gun through a post, it shall issue a directive asking that particular user to comply with the local law and regulation.
Joining Facebook in it’s crusade against gun sales, especially towards minors is Instagram. Together these companies aim at setting an example to limit the illicit sales of goods such as guns on all social media networks. In a public statement on Wednesday Facebook 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.” Previously, users of all ages were able to post and share images of weapons. On Instagram, any user was able to combing hash tags such as #forsale and #rifle and arrange a private sale for a gun.
Facebook and Instagram have also announced a retroactive initiative to fight gun sales from taking place on their websites by going through previous postings, comments and advertisements that solicit such transactions without a background check and have them deleted. These are some of the most common ways a minor or a felon can gain access to a firearm. Websites such as craigslist and Ebay which are retail sites already ban gun sales. With more than a billion registered users and with no regulation or oversight, many including minors had no problem arranging a private sale of an item such as a gun or other contraband.
This move by the company was only after months of long negotiations with various groups and law makers. In many respects, it seems as if Facebook was forced to take action, and if the company were left to its own devices they probably would have continued to turn a blind eye towards private gun sales that were taking place with no restrictions for minors on their website. The office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had raised issues with the company over gun advertisements that were ignoring the law about transporting armed weapons across state lines.
A non-profit group called ‘Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America’ petitioned Facebook numerous times to change their policy towards promoting private gun sales. Initially the company did not respond. Eventually when this group with 140,000 members in 50 states made a very popular video that got 400,000 views and submitted 230,000 petitions to the company, they had to give in. The changes that Facebook have implemented will take a few weeks to kick in and it will be only after this when the efficacy of these policies towards fighting gun sales on similar social media sites can be measured.
By Unni K. Nair