Facebook cracks down on illegal gun sales

Facebook and Instagram have introduced a new policy on gun posts and sales. 

By , Correspondent

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    Facebook is updating its policy on gun sales conducted through its mobile and Web platforms.
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Facebook is tightening its policies on gun-related content.

In a news release on Wednesday, reps for the social network said that Facebook, and its photo-sharing subsidiary, Instagram, would begin removing posts from gun sellers who appeared to be attempting to flout local laws. This includes sellers who place the phrase "no background check required" in their posts and people who "offer to transact across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer." 

In addition, gun vendors will be required to "clearly remind [buyers] of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations, and limit access to people over the age of 18 or older if required by applicable law." 

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As VentureBeat has reported, Facebook has recently been criticized by gun-control advocates for appearing to facilitate the illegal transfer of weapons. In one widely-covered case, a 15-year-old in Kentucky was able to purchase a pistol from an adult he had met on a Facebook fan page. Incidents like that led to a petition, signed by almost 100,000 people, to bar gun sales on Facebook and Instagram. 

"While we've recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms, this is one of many areas where we face a difficult challenge balancing individuals' desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere," Facebook's Monika Bickert said in a statement.

So will the new policy have the desired effect? Well, Shannon Watts, the author of the above petition, and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told CBS News she was optimistic. 

"American moms are gratified that Facebook and Instagram have agreed to take meaningful steps to prevent illegal gun sales to children and dangerous people on its platforms," she said. "We are happy that these companies listened to American mothers and we believe these changes are a major step toward making sure people who buy or sell guns on their platforms know the law, and follow it."

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