The Facebook gun ban was announced earlier in 2016 to the chagrin of gun rights supporters. Although the initial announcement focused on targeting private gun sales within Facebook groups, now administrators of Facebook pages for airsoft and paintball guns sales are claiming their replica gun pages are being banned out of the blue. Furthermore, the automated messages sent out via Facebook emails are comparing their replica gun hobby to hate groups and obscenities.
Near the end of January, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, released a statement explaining the Facebook gun ban 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,” wrote Bickert. “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 Facebook Messenger system was recently updated to allow peer-to-peer payments similar to Paypal. Facebook can store credit card information now, so it is possible Facebook may become a major hub of financial transactions and product sales over time. Since Facebook is progressing toward allowing on-site payments for goods, it made sense for the company to update its policy to cover potential gray areas or illegal items.
Politics was the other part of the equation. Previous reports indicate the Facebook guns ban occurred after the social media giant came under pressure from the Obama administration. The current debate over gun control and mass shootings has led to the White House attempting to pass as many gun control laws as possible, so the Facebook weapons ban is seen as an indirect way to slow down illegal gun sales and potentially plug up holes in the law.
As an example, the Facebook statement specifically said their efforts were intended to help prevent anyone from undermining the gun control background check 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 explained. “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.”
In discussing the regulated goods, the Facebook Help Center also provided a list of banned weapons and firearms which went way beyond real guns.
Curios and relics
Earlier this week, the Facebook weapons ban was apparently enforced by implementing the Facebook airsoft and paintball ban. According to Merlin’s Airsoft News, the “majority of the victims appeared to be any group with the work ‘gun’, ‘firearm’ or ‘weapon’ in the title coupled with terms such as B/S/T or buy/sell/trade, or anything that suggested the site was used for selling/buying guns, whether real or airsoft.”
As an example, an administrator for a Facebook Airsoft group called “Buy Sell Trade Airsoft Gear and Guns” found his Facebook page was banned with “no warning” earlier this week. He shared the following Facebook email, which compared his airsoft gun page to hate groups.
In response, airsoft and paintball players were shocked that Facebook considers their sport to be “hateful.” Some players are attempting to galvanize the public by creating a petition called “Facebook Is Banning Airsoft Sales! Fight Now!”
“Facebook is trying to ban all sales and trades regarding ‘firearms’ this includes airsoft and paintball,” says the Care2 petition. “Please, sign this petition in hopes that we can keep our airsoft community alive on Facebook. We have already had lots of support for this.”
As of this publishing, the petition has almost reached 3,000 signatures, with new supporters being added every several minutes. Some Facebook users have also suggested starting new groups under inconspicuous names to avoid detection.
“I always (or at least try to always) use the words Airsoft Replica instead of the G-word,” wrote one Facebook user recently. “Just like in paintball 20 years ago, we went from paintball ‘gun’ to ‘paintball marker’, because that’s really what they are… a marker. Same thing here. These are airsoft replicas.”
What do you think about the Facebook gun ban? Do you think Facebook went too far in banning paintball and airsoft gun sales?
[Image via Jessica Watson/Facebook]