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It just got harder to buy a gun on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook announced extra “education and enforcement” measures to crack down on gun sales.


Kate Knibbs


It’s one of social media’s dirty secrets: it’s freaky-easy to sell stuff like guns and drugs on platforms like Facebook and its photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram.

But Facebook is making efforts to reduce the illegal sale of firearms on its services. The social network announced a policy change that includes increased educational and enforcement measures to get people to stop using its platforms to buy and sell guns.

Here are the new measures:

  • Any time we receive a report on Facebook about a post promoting the private sale of a commonly regulated item, we will send a message to that person reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations. We will also limit access to that post to people over the age of 18.
  • We will require Pages that are primarily used by people to promote the private sale of commonly regulated goods or services to include language that clearly reminds people of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations, and limit access to people over the age of 18 or older if required by applicable law.
  • We will provide special in-app education on Instagram for those who search for sales or promotions of firearms.

Facebook also won’t let people post offers suggesting they’ll help people sneak around laws: no more “NO BACKGROUND CHECK” announcements. 

The social network is responding to increased pressure from activist groups like Americans for Responsible Solutions and Sandy Hook Promise.

“Facebook has taken a significant step for gun safety. We were pleased to work with Facebook on a new set of policies that protect the safety of users, particularly children, educate its users about lawful and responsible firearms transactions, and help prevent illegal activity from occurring. Specifically, the new initiative will block children from viewing firearms sales ads, inform users of the law and responsible approaches to gun transactions, and help enforce the law by deleting posts that encourage no-background check or illegal sales. While Facebook is making a serious effort to ensure safe and responsible compliance with our nation’s gun laws, we know that our laws must be strengthened. Providing background checks for internet sales is commonsense policy that allows law abiding Americans to safely exchange guns,” ARP and Sandy Hook Promise said in a joint statement.

Legislators like Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have also called for gun sale bans on Instagram, which likely contributed to Facebook’s decision.

It’s definitely a good first step, but it still allows plenty of room for arms dealers to continue illicit trade. Facebook could improve enforcement by having a unit in place that actively trawls the website for evidence of illegal dealing. While the new measures bulk up response once a complaint occurs, pages that aren’t flagged can continue to operate unchecked.

Daliy Dot asked Facebook why it hasn’t just banned all firearm sales. 

“Facebook is not a commerce platform, nor do we allow advertising that promotes the sale or use of firearms. At its heart, Facebook is about helping people connect and share. We want to balance people’s interest in sharing what’s important to them, while promoting a safe, responsible community,” a Facebook spokesperson told Daily Dot.

Photo via Flickr/yuichirock (CC BY 2.0)

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