Under pressure from US gun-control advocates, Facebook Inc agreed on Wednesday to delete posts from users seeking to buy or sell weapons across US state lines or without a background check.
A similar policy will be applied to Instagram, the company’s photo-sharing network, Facebook said. The measures will be put into effect over the next few weeks at the world’s largest social network, with 1.3 billion active users.
“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.
The move reflects growing alarm that the Internet is being used to sell banned weapons or put guns in the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers, the mentally ill or others barred from obtaining firearms under US federal law. Gun-control advocates say Facebook has become a significant marketplace, with thousands of gun-related posts.
Google Plus and Craigslist already prohibit all gun sales.
Facebook said that instead of patrolling its network for violators, it will rely on reports from users and law enforcement agencies.
The new policy was worked out in an agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been pressing the company along with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group backed by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Moms Demand Action. Moms Demand Action collected more than 230,000 signatures on petitions calling on Facebook to act.
“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.
Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) legislative policy arm, portrayed the new policy as a victory for the NRA, saying Bloomberg and those he supports tried — and failed — to shut down discussion of gun rights on Facebook.
“NRA members and our supporters will continue to have a platform to exercise their First Amendment rights in support of their Second Amendment freedoms,” Cox said.
However, Tom King, president of the NRA’s New York affiliate, warned that the policy could be used to silence gun rights organizations on Facebook.
“This is something that could greatly get out of control very quickly,” King said.