Facebook To Ban Private Gun Sales On Its Service

Lindsay McCane - Author

Jan. 30 2016, Updated 2:00 p.m. ET

Facebook has announced their plans to update their policies to ban private gun sales on their social media service and on their photo-sharing service Instagram.

According to Reuters, reported via MSN,Facebook made the announcement on Friday, January 29, saying that they would be adding the private, person-to-person sales of guns to their list of prohibited content. The prohibited content list already includes illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs; tobacco products and related paraphernalia; unsafe supplements, as determined by Facebook in its sole discretion; Weapons, ammunition, or explosives; and adult products or services (except for ads for family planning and contraception).

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“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,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, said in a statement.

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“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,” Bickert added.

NPR‘s Laura Sydell explained that the new restrictions have come after Facebook received pressure from the Obama administration and the current debate on gun control after a string of mass shootings that have taken place over the past several years.

“Facebook has never been directly involved in gun selling, but it has been a place where buyers and sellers have negotiated sales,” Sydell explained.

Facebook has been debating on whether or not to allow the private sale of guns on their service for several years, and issued a statement in 2014 explaining their stance on the subject.

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“While we’ve recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms, this is one of many areas where we face a difficult challenge balancing individuals’ desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere,” the statement read.

At the time, Facebook came up with a policy that would allow private gun sales as long as the seller and buyer were over the age of 18 years old and the seller didn’t use the words “no background check required” to help the potential customer evade the laws.

“We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law,” the statement continued. “For example, private sellers of firearms in the U.S. will not be permitted to specify ‘no background check required,’ nor can they offer to transact across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer.”

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Since the 2014 change, Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, has been pressuring Facebook to create stricter regulations on the sales of guns online. Following Facebook’s Friday announcement, Everytown said, “We’re thankful that Facebook has listened to our call and shut down a key avenue that criminals have used to avoid background checks and buy guns with no questions asked.”

Facebook said they will be relying heavily on its network of users, which equals an approximate 1.6 billion monthly visitors, to report any violations to the new rules. The violators will then be banned from the service, or their posting privileges will be monitored. Although private gun sales will now be banned, licensed gun retailers will still be able to advertise their guns on Facebook as long as the transactions are made outside of Facebook’s service.

[Photo by dolphfyn/Shutterstock]


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