Facebook is tightening its gun-control policy on both its own site and on Instagram.
The social media giant – which has over a billion users worldwide – is taking steps to prevent the private sale of firearms on its many public and private groups. According to The New York Times, licensed gun dealers and gun clubs will still be able to sell their weapons on Facebook, though.
The social networking site has long taken steps to prevent the flow of illegal activity and obscene material on the millions upon millions of individual pages and groups that make up its website. Users are not allowed to post pornography, genitalia, female nipples, and are also prohibited from using the site’s pages to sell drugs or other illegal materials.
In 2014, Facebook banned the sale of illegal guns, saying it “will remove reported posts that explicitly indicate a specific attempt to evade or help others evade the law.” This new policy will expand on the 2014 version, prohibiting the private sale of guns, which can take place without a background check.
According to Facebook Inc. spokeswoman, Monika Bickert, the increased number of financial transactions on the site helped spur the company’s new policy.
“Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another. We are continuing to develop, test, and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”
The site’s new policy comes less than a month after President Obama responded to the high-profile shootings in San Bernardino and Oregon by promising to tighten gun-control laws.
Facebook will depend on its users to report violators. Once reported, the site can either ban violators or severely limit their ability to post.
Gun control advocates have lauded Facebook’s gun restrictions. New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, who pressured the site into making its 2014 policy, hailed the new version as “a positive step toward our shared goal of stopping illegal online gun sales once and for all.”
Everytown for Gun Advocacy – a gun-control advocacy group founded by Moms Demand Action founder, Shannon Watts, and former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg – declared “victory” on their Facebook page.
According to Fox News, Watts also commended Facebook for its openness to Everytown’s thoughts and research.
“I think they definitely saw this was an issue, but an incredibly complicated issue. I think that’s why it’s taken two years.”
Not everyone is thrilled with the site’s new policy, though.
Douglas Ernst, who writes for the conservative WorldNetDaily, said Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, “caved into pressure from the Obama administration.”
Ernst also criticized the policy because it will “lump individual gun sellers in with drug dealers and those who illegally traffic pharmaceuticals.” Furthermore, he warned that, while “licensed gun owners will still be able to freely operate,” this may only be temporary.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), which makes up America’s largest gun-rights advocacy group, has not yet responded to Facebook’s new policy.
However, if and when they do respond, they will almost certainly oppose it. In response to the 2014 policy, Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, accused Michael Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, for trying to “pressure Facebook into shutting down discussion of Second Amendment issues on its social media platforms” because the “NRA enjoys 150 times more support on Facebook…”
The NRA also implied Facebook’s new policy was an attack on their First Amendment freedoms.
“NRA members and our supporters will continue to have a platform to exercise their First Amendment rights in support of their Second Amendment freedoms.”
Unfortunately, both sides of the gun-control debate will have to wait and see what effect, if any, Facebook’s new policy has on gun ownership in the United States. However, considering the social networking behemoth’s size and power, do not be surprised if they contribute to major changes in gun control.
[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]