San Jose Mercury News
MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Gun control groups have praised Facebook for changing its policies to block potentially illegal firearm sales online.
The social networking giant agreed to delete posts reported by members where a seller agrees to forego background checks, or where a buyer tries to avoid one. Posts about sales looking to cross state lines will also be deleted. The same policy will apply to Facebook’s photo sharing subsidiary, Instagram.
Facebook is relying on members to report pages that could potentially facilitate illegal gun sales, and members under 18 years old won’t be able to view posts flagged by other members, or pages where guns are sold or traded.
Facebook, based in Menlo Park, Calif., will remind private sellers to follow relevant laws, including those requiring background checks, and will block users who don’t acknowledge the reminder. And when someone searches on Instagram for a hashtag related to gun offers -- like "#guns4sale," which turned up 133 posts one morning last week -- they’ll be required to acknowledge the relevant laws that apply to them before they see search results.
"We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law," Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, said in a news release. "We believe these collective efforts represent the right approach in balancing people’s desire to express themselves while promoting a safe, responsible community.
The announcement follows a month-long campaign by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and talks between Facebook and Mayors Against Illegal Guns officials.
"Our campaign showed how easy it is for minors, felons and other dangerous people to get guns online -- that’s why moms and more than 230,000 Americans signed our petition, tweeted and used social media to ask Facebook and Instagram to do something about gun sales facilitated on their networks," Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said in a news release.
"There’s still so much to be done -- by corporations, by Congress, and by local leaders -- to keep guns out of dangerous hands," she added. "Moms have momentum and we’re moving the country toward a culture of gun safety one company, one legislator, one law at a time. We’re going to keep applying pressure to corporations and political leaders until they do more to reduce the gun violence that plagues our country."
Mayors Against Illegal Guns chairman John Feinblatt said "the ‘private sale loophole’ allows anonymous parties to sell guns without background checks, and there are simply too many ways for criminals, minors and other prohibited gun purchasers to get them easily -- with just the click of a mouse. We are grateful that Facebook and Instagram are making major moves to prevent these sales from happening via their platforms."