- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2014

Facebook has announced a major policy change regarding gun sale posts.

The social media site will remove posts for gun sales that don’t require a background check or cross state lines. It also will prevent minors from viewing posts about gun sales.

The policy change comes after months of pressure from the gun-control activist groups Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as well as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Under its current policies, Facebook already has banned paid ads for items such as tobacco, drugs and weapons, and has regulated discussions of such products.

Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, said the company is continually developing its policies to balance free speech while weeding out abusers of the site.

Facebook, at its heart, is about helping people connect and communicate. Because of the diversity of people and cultures on our services, we know that people sometimes post or share things that may be controversial or objectionable,” Ms. Bickert said in a statement.

“We work hard to find a balance between enabling people to express themselves about topics that are important to them, and creating an environment that is safe and respectful. This balance is important to how we view commercial activity on Facebook or Instagram,” she said.

Ms. Bickert laid out Facebook’s new gun sales policy:

  • Any time we receive a report on Facebook about a post promoting the private sale of a commonly regulated item, we will send a message to that person reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations. We will also limit access to that post to people over the age of 18.
  • We will require Pages that are primarily used by people to promote the private sale of commonly regulated goods or services to include language that clearly reminds people 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.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence criticized Facebook, saying the social media gian did not stipulate a harsh enough regulation.

“This new policy is not a victory because Facebook continues to makes it too easy for dangerous people to evade a background check when buying guns. A mere warning to follow the law and community-based reporting will not do enough to prevent unchecked gun sales to dangerous people,” Brady Campaign President Daniel Gross said in a press release.

Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts started her group as a Facebook page after the Sandy Hook school killings. Group members launched their own investigations into the selling of illegal guns on Facebook and Instagram. They found multiple examples of gun dealers willing to  sell weaponsillegally to minors and felons.

Ms. Watts’ group now has more than 150,000 members, and she joined forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to press Facebook to change its policy. A petition on Change.org now has more than 95,000 signatures.