Facebook Bans Gun Trading, But Gives Sellers 10 Chance Before Banning Them

FILE PHOTO: A mobile phone with the Facebook logo in front of the Facebook Meta logo. The platform gives 10 opportunities to arms sellers before expelling them from its platform (Reuters) (DADO RUVIC /)

Facebook prohibits the sale of weapons in its service. But buyers and sellers can violate the rule 10 times before being banned from the social network.according to internal guidance obtained by Washington Post. Politicswhich had not been previously reported, is much more lenient than that applied to users who post child pornographywhich is illegal, or a terrorist image in Facebookwhich causes the immediate removal of the platform.

A separate policy five notices it extends even to gun sellers and buyers who actively call for violence or praise a known dangerous organization, according to the documents.

Facebookonce a major market for gun sales, sold in groups to firearms enthusiasts, banned such sales in 2016 amid pressure from activists and government agencies trying to tighten gun control after Sandy Hook. Other social media companies, such as Twitter, Youtube Y TikTokThey followed his example.

Facebook has maintained that it adequately controls arms sales, arguing that such deals represent a small fraction of the content on its networks and that many of those who violate the policy are unaware that they are breaking the rules, since the sale of weapons is legal in USA.

However, the company reveals little information about how it enforces its arms sales ban, leaving its system of “strikes”, which grants users who violate any of the company rules a specific number of passes and a tiered system of punishments before being expelled from the service.

Internal documents and interviews with six current and former employeeswho spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the company’s discussions, reveal that Facebook’s gun policies have long been a source of controversy among the company’s management and policy teams, who have been torn between the platform’s support for freedom of expression and public pressure to reduce gun sales.

The ease with which individuals can purchase guns has resurfaced in public debate after a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texascaused the death of 19 elementary school students and two teachers, one of the deadliest massacres in the history of USA. The Uvalde shooter bought the guns legally from a local federally licensed gun shop.. Only 22 states require a background check for gun purchases from unlicensed dealers, who trade their wares at gun shows and, increasingly, on the Internet, according to the gun control advocacy group. Everytown for Gun Safety.

Flowers, toys and other items to remember the victims of the school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, United States, on May 30 (Reuters)
Flowers, toys and other items to remember the victims of the school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, United States, on May 30 (Reuters) (VERONICA CARDENAS /)

The rise of e-commerce sites has helped transform the market for firearms sales. Sellers and buyers have flocked to niche websites like Backpage, Armslist, and Gunlistings, along with traditional social media like Facebook.. The Internet has become a haven for unlicensed gun dealers from states that don’t legally require background checks, according to research.

Loopholes in the laws have made private sales without background checks not only legal but now really easy with online shopping“, said Daniel Websterco-director of Johns Hopkins Center for Solutions to Armed Violence. “The Internet expands the ability to connect with many people, whether it’s minors, someone on a domestic violence restraining order, or a convicted felon. They can easily enter the Internet and find” Firearms.

Gun safety experts and advocates who learned about the 10- and 5-hit rules when contacted by The Post they described them as overly deferential to gun dealers at a time when the Internet has become a hub for peer-to-peer gun sales with no background checks.

Facebook’s 10 Ads Rule For Banned Gun Sales Is More Than Shocking: It’s Incredibly Dangerous”, he said in a statement Shannon Wattsfounder of Moms Demand Actiona grassroots network run by Everytown. “Gun violence is tearing our communities apart, and yet Facebook is more concerned with giving gun dealers not just one second chance, but ten. That’s not responsibility, it’s complicity”.

Facebook does not dispute the existence of the 10 chances rule. The spokesman for Facebook, Andy Stone said in a statement that the company promptly removes posts that violate its gun sales ban policy. and imposes increasingly harsh penalties on repeat offenders, including permanent account suspension.

If we identify any serious violations that have the potential to cause real-world harm, we don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement.“, said Stone. “The reality is that almost 90% of people who get a strike for violating our firearms policy accumulate less than two because their violations are inadvertent and once we inform them of our policies, they do not violate them again.”.

Other social media companies apply their rules against gun sales and related content differently. Youtube prohibits any content that is used to sell firearms, including links to websites that sell weapons directly, according to the company spokesperson, jack malon. The creators of Youtube who accumulate three violations within 90 days will see their channel terminated. video sharing service TikTok bans users the first time they violate company rules prohibiting offers to sell firearms, according to its spokesperson Hilary McQuaide.

Facebook executives have yet to find an efficient way to ban gun dealers from their platform despite multiple calls from civil society and mass shooting victim associations (Reuters)
Facebook executives have not yet found an efficient way to banish weapons sellers from their platform despite multiple requests from civil society and associations of victims of mass shootings (Reuters) (CARLOS BARRIA /)

According to the strike system Facebookcertain actions, such as posting child pornography, a Nazi flag on a person’s profile, or a terrorist image will result in immediate removal from the platformpeople said. People who post misinformation on Facebook they must do this three times within 90 days before the company temporarily freezes their account.

The website of Facebook He says that most violations of his elaborate system follow a similar pattern: a first offense results in a warning; a second violation blocks a day of publication, while five violations trigger a 30-day publication block. The same tiered punishment system also applies to gun sellers and buyers. But the company doesn’t elaborate on what behavior warrants an outright ban and doesn’t describe how specific violations are treated compared to others.

No social media platform has any reason to explain why their thresholds are what they are. everyone makes up numbers”, said one of the people.

Gun sellers have taken advantage of loopholes in Facebook’s policy. Journalists have repeatedly uncovered the strategies sellers use to circumvent bans and reach potential customers in dedicated groups of Facebook or in Facebook Marketplace, the company’s classifieds service. One of the tactics is to advertise accessories for weapons, such as covers or cases, whose sale is allowed on the platform; once the customer contacts the seller, the gun can be sold in private Facebook messages or via text message. After responding to several ads for gun holsters, a reporter from the post He received three private messages with offers to buy a gun.

Facebook allows its users to promote gun safety classes, gun shows, and firearm giveaways. It allows retailers that sell guns to promote their firearms through organic posts and other related products through ads. This includes Daniel Defensethe company that sold the rifle used by the shooter Uvalde and pioneer in online marketing, which regularly publishes on its pages of Facebook and Instagram.

The company’s policies have also drawn pushback from gun industry groups. mark olivedirector general of public affairs of the National Shooting Sports Foundationargued that the rules of Facebook and its application were unduly burdensome for companies conducting legal trade.

We were concerned about the demonization and prohibition of legal trading on these platforms“, said olivia. “To do business, you must have a presence on social media”.

Facebookthe world’s largest social network with 3.64 billion users, began to reassess its practices around guns about a decade ago, following the massacre of Sandy Hook in 2012 and that of Saint Bernardine (California) in 2015. The company, which has recently changed its name to Goalowns WhatsApp and Instagramand it applies many of the same content policies across these services.

At the time, some of the company’s top executives, including the chief operating officer Sheryl Sandbergargued that Facebook needed to outright ban gun sales in response to mass shootings, according to two of the people. But Sandberg was countered by a key adjunct –Joel Kaplanvice president of global public policy – who, along with other executives, said that banning transactions in a product that was legal and wildly popular would alienate the political right, the gun lobby and millions of Americans who used the service, they said.

Externally, a coalition of activist groups, including the parents of the students killed in Sandy Hook, had begun to pressure the company to limit arms deals. In 2014, the then attorney general of the state of New York, eric schneidermancarried out an investigation on the platform of Facebookwhich supposedly allowed people to circumvent laws requiring background checks in many states.

In response to the investigation, Facebook and Instagram announced that they would ban firearms sales posts in which sellers tried to circumvent the law, and sent reminders to gun sellers to comply with the regulations. The company blocked users under the age of 18 from seeing posts selling guns between individuals.

But the new policy was so gradual that even the National Rifle Associationwho queried Facebook about its gun policies, praised it as an answer “measure” showing respect for “our constitutional freedoms.” The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2016, the internal impulse of Sandberg prevailed, according to two of the people. The company prohibited the sale of firearms between individuals, as well as the sale of ammunition and parts. The company’s announcement came just days after the administration of obama issue executive actions targeting gun safety, including a provision for people who sell firearms in Internet and at gun shows obtain a license and conduct background checks on potential buyers. In 2018, Facebook announced that it would stop showing ads for gun accessories, such as holsters and cases, to minors.

the pressure was too much”, said one of the people. But while the company was publicly praised for banning sales, internally its enforcement was lax, they added. “The number of hits required to retire someone was so great that politics didn’t really make a difference. The only ramification was that a vendor’s position was removed”, said the person.

Until 2020, the warning threshold for guns was more than 10, two of the people said. That threshold seemed “too high” for many employeeswho advocated reducing it to 10 strikes or less.

By 2021, company executives were debating sanctions again; some were frustrated that the company shared little information about its advisory system with the public. At the end of last year, Facebook created a rule of five strikes whether the gun dealer had certain other violations. For example, a person who published a statement in support of Hitlerand then posted that he wanted to kill minorities, and then put up two different posts about selling assault weapons would not trigger the five removal policy strikes. By contrast, four arms sales posts and one post praising Hitler would lead to removal.. A direct or “credible” threat to kill a specific person warrants immediate removal and referral to law enforcement, but this happens very rarely, officials said. Facebook has the power to launch a separate investigation and remove the offending content and accounts at any time.

the system strikes has been the subject of scrutiny by the Supervisory Boardan independent body that reviews the content moderation decisions of Facebookwhich last year pushed the company to give users more information about the number of strikes that have been applied against them and the consequences of continuing to break the rules.

now while USA reeling from another spate of violence, arms manufacturers continue to turn to networks of Facebook to promote your products. In the days before the shooting of Uvalde, Daniel Defense posted several photos of his guns on Facebookattracting hundreds of comments and likes. “Let’s normalize kitchen Daniels”, read the caption of a firearm type AR-15 leaning against a kitchen cabinet. “Which Daniel do you use to protect your family and home?”.

(C) The Washington Post.-