Facebook and Instagram have taken some steps to curb the sale of firearms on their networks, but critics and advocacy groups still aren’t happy that social is being used to traffic guns in a legal gray area.
We’ve covered the story extensively here at SND (you can hit the links for the background on it), but basically, people have been using targeted hashtags and photos on the social networks to buy, sell, and trade firearms owner-to-owner, and, as critics charge, without legal requirements like licensing and background checks.
It’s a sticky situation for social media tentpoles like Facebook and Instagram. Since they’re social networks and not ecommerce platforms, they’ve said that there’s little they can do about gun sales. Still, Facebook announced this week that they’d start taking reported posts more seriously and that they’ll be more proactive about reminding post owners to “comply with relevant laws and regulations” regarding commonly regulated goods or services.
Since this doesn’t exactly solve the problem, some activists have criticized Facebook and Instagram for not taking the issue seriously enough.
In an email to SND, Daniel Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said that the buying and selling of guns on social networks is still “too easy.” Here’s Gross, in full:
“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. As we and thousands of others have told Facebook, unlicensed gun sales have no place on the social network. Facebook should prohibit all posts that advertise the unlicensed sale or transfer of firearms in the U.S. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time before a gun purchased through Facebook without a background check is used in a terrible tragedy.”
Heidi Yewman, of the Million Mom March Chapters and the Brady Campaign, concurred:
“Facebook and Instagram are great platforms to share opinions, memories, and photos, but they shouldn’t be providing opportunities for criminals to evade background checks and get guns. As a parent, I’m disappointed that an industry leader like Facebook is way behind on such an important issue involving the safety and security of us all. I stand with moms across the country and ask that Facebook and Instagram join Craigslist, Google, and eBay and prohibit unlicensed gun sales.”
Normally, I’d be a little more opinionated on such a hot button issue, but it’s kind of easy to see both sides here. On the one hand, honest folks would agree that private gun sales could potentially be dangerous, but they do occur regardless of social networks like Facebook and Instagram. The social networks make it easier to connect for such transactions, but it’s not really their job to enforce the law — the criminality of such transactions (where applicable) is on the transactor and the transactee.
It’s a tough issue, and the resolution depends on relevant statistical data regarding the private sale of guns on social media and the rate at which those “black market” firearms are used in actual crimes.
Anyone have that data? Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter.
What do you think of gun sales on social networks like Facebook and Instagram? Should social networks be more proactive regarding this issue, or is there little they can do? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.