Buckling under pressure from Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Moms Demand Action civic group to ban gun-themed fan pages, Facebook announced changes to its policy on March 5.
Facebook calls these changes “educational and enforcement” measures regarding discussion of guns and other regulated items on its social networks.
The changes, which also apply to Facebook-owned Instagram, include new age limits for posts or pages promoting private sales of restricted items like firearms, alcohol or adult products. There’s new policy language with an emphasis on knowing and following laws related to regulated items like firearms and keeping them away from kids. There will be educational messages sent to users who promote the sale of guns and those seeking them out.
In October 2013, a Kentucky 15-year-old bought a 9mm handgun from a man he met through a Facebook fan page. The high school student was caught with the loaded weapon on the campus of Greenup County High School. The seller, who drove to Kentucky from Ohio, to sell the weapon was also arrested. He told authorities that he has sold other guns to people he’s met on Facebook.
“Anybody can go to Facebook and Instagram and buy a gun online. We’re asking them to review their policies,” a spokeswoman for Mayors Against Illegal Guns told VentureBeat.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns was co-founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with Boston’s former mayor, Thomas Menino, in 2006. More than 1,100 mayor belong to the group.
The other group, Moms Demand Action, had a petition on Change.org to prohibit gun sales on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram. It reached over 94,000 signatures.
“Facebook, at its heart, is about helping people connect and communicate. Because of the diversity of people and cultures on our services, we know that people sometimes post or share things that may be controversial or objectionable. We work hard to find a balance between enabling people to express themselves about topics that are important to them, and creating an environment that is safe and respectful,” said Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management in a press release.
Before Wednesday’s announcement, Facebook notes, the company already had a ban on paid advertisements for weapons. And because the company is not an e-commerce site, it is not actually possible to complete financial transactions on its social networks. But gun-control advocates argued that Facebook and Instagram were nevertheless becoming marketplaces for unmonitored firearm sales.
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