Facebook Changes Gun Sales Policy

John Lister's picture

Facebook is introducing new rules governing the way its users can offer to sell guns online its website. While it's not banning such posts altogether, Facebook is taking steps to ensure its users are complying with the law.

According to Facebook policy chief Monika Bickert, the subject of gun sales means the site faces "a difficult challenge balancing individuals' desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere." (Source: fb.com)

Facebook already has several policies on the sale of goods, which don't always match up to their legal status. For example, it understandably bans ads for illegal drugs, but also bans ads for tobacco and prescription pharmaceuticals. However, ads for alcohol and adult products are allowed, subject to age restrictions (and only if those viewing the ads are telling the truth about their age).

Facebook Bans "No Background Checks" Advertisements

The new rules apply to posts detailing private sales of regulated items, most notably guns. Commercial sales of weapons are already banned.

There will be three main changes. Firstly, anyone can send a report to Facebook when they see a post offering to sell a gun. Facebook won't pull the post, but will restrict it so it can't be seen by those under the age of 18. It will also send a warning message to the poster reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws.

Secondly, anyone who operates a Facebook Page that deals with gun sales will have to put a warning on the page to remind customers of any relevant laws. Depending on the laws where the page operator lives, the page may be restricted to adult access only.

Finally, there will be a complete ban on any post that offers to sell guns in an illegal manner. For example, posters won't be able to tell would-be customers that they can get a gun without a background check.

Facebook Gun Sale Rules Spark Debate

New policies are also being extended to picture-sharing website Instagram, which was recently purchased by Facebook in August of 2012. In the future, anyone who searches for pictures with labels such as "guns for sale" won't be able to see results until they've read a warning about relevant gun control laws.

The changes follow a petition signed by 230,000 people demanding Facebook deal with "an unregulated marketplace" for guns on the site. However, the changes have already earned criticism with other petitions calling it an attack on both the first and second amendment. (Source: msnbc.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think Facebook has struck the right balance with these new rules? Would you prefer it blocked posts advertising gun sales altogether? Or do you think it's not Facebook's role to tell people what they can and can't say on the Facebook website? Lastly, do you agree with the criticism that these policy changes are an attack on first and second amendment rights of the United States?

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