Facebook, Instagram implement new policies to prevent illegal gun sales

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On March 5, Facebook and its photo-sharing subsidy Instagram announced new policies that are aimed to reduce illegal gun sales taking place through the social media networks. Motivation for the policies stemmed from a national grassroots organization, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who also worked with the national coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Facebook’s announcement followed a monthlong campaign by Moms Demand Action with more than 230,000 supporters, which asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom to confront the illegal gun sales taking place within their networking sites.

TerriLynn Barnett Miller, leader of the Kansas Chapter of Moms Demand Action and K-State alumna, said the organization supported gun rights.

“Moms Demand Action is absolutely adamant that nothing should happen to change the Second Amendment,” Barnett Miller said. “All we want to do is protect our kids. We can do this by closing the private-sale loophole that allows guns to be sold between strangers and dangerous people without background checks.”

There are nine new policies set in place by Facebook and Instagram. Moms Demand Action’s website has a list of the new policies, and they read as follows:

1. Facebook will block all users under the age of 18 from viewing reported private gun sale posts and pages primarily used for these offers.

2. Users will be able to flag posts that promote suspicious and potentially illegal gun sales for deletion.

3. Facebook will delete reported posts that offer gun sales without background checks.

4. Facebook will delete all reported posts that offer gun sales across state lines.

5. Facebook will continue to report threatening gun-related posts to law enforcement.

6. Users will have to acknowledge laws that apply to them when they sell guns — and they’ll be blocked from continuing to the site if they don’t.

7. All gun-related Facebook pages and groups have to acknowledge the laws that apply to them, and must display this information prominently. Once reported, they’ll be taken down temporarily until they do so.

8. Searching Instagram for gun-related hashtags will prompt a warning and require users to acknowledge gun sale laws before viewing search results.

9. Facebook will target ads at users interested in gun-related pages with information on gun sale laws — including background checks requirements.

In its announcement on March 5, Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert wrote that at its heart, Facebook 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,” Bickert wrote. “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.”

During the campaign, Moms Demand Action was partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, one of the largest gun violence prevention groups. Founded by former Mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York and Thomas Menino of Boston, the organization has more than 1,000 mayors from 43 states, including two from Kansas: Crosby Gernon, mayor of Hiawatha and Carl Brewer, mayor of Wichita.

“Kansas is a tough state for us because so many people are afraid we are trying to take their guns away from them,” Barnett Miller said. “But it’s not about taking guns away from people, it’s about encouraging responsibility among gun owners.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is not supported by the National Rifle Association. However, in a press release, the NRA expressed support for the new Facebook policies.

Moving forward, Moms Demand Action hope to show gratitude for the change before moving onto their next campaign.

“Now that Facebook and Instagram have acted on our requests, we at Moms Demand Actions want to go through period of gratitude. Now we’re sending a message to say thank you. We recognize that you’re taking steps to protect our children and communities.”

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