Facebook and Instagram to Begin Deleting Illegal Gun Sales Posts
By Michael Virtanen, AP
Under pressure from gun-control advocates, Facebook agreed Wednesday to delete posts from people selling illegal guns or offering weapons for sale without background checks.
A similar policy will apply to Instagram, the company’s photo-sharing network, Facebook said. The policies announced Wednesday will be implemented over the next few weeks.
“We will remove reported posts that explicitly indicate a specific attempt to evade or help others evade the law,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “For example, we will remove reported posts where the potential buyer or seller indicates they will not conduct a background check or are willing to sell across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and gun-control groups have been asking Facebook to implement such restrictions. New York requires a federal background check for private gun sales and prohibits sales of some popular firearms, such as the AR-15. His office collected evidence that some website posters were willing to sell guns without background checks or to otherwise violate the sales restrictions of states with tougher gun-control laws.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Moms Demand Action have been pressuring Facebook to address the issue. Petitions from Moms Demand Action calling on Facebook to prohibit illegal gun sales had more than 230,000 signatures.
“Responsible social media sites know that it is in no one’s interest for their sites to become the 21st century black market in dangerous and illegal goods that place our families and communities at risk,” Schneiderman said. “I congratulate Facebook and Instagram for taking these simple, common sense steps to protect the safety and security of their users, and encourage other social media sites to follow their lead.”
Facebook said it will remove messages for buying or selling guns that indicate an attempt to evade the law. It also will issue advisories to people offering to sell “commonly regulated goods” — such as guns, tobacco, alcohol and adult products — to obey relevant laws. It also will keep children from seeing such posts.
Under the stated policy, Facebook would allow a user in Texas to list an AR-15 for sale, since the gun is legal there, if it wasn’t offered for sale in states where it’s illegal. But it would delete a similar post from someone in New York. It would also remove posts from any state in which the seller says the background check will be skipped, even if such checks aren’t required where the seller lives.