Facebook has prohibited private sales of guns on its flagship social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service, a move meant to clamp down on unlicensed gun transactions.
Facebook already prohibits people from offering marijuana, pharmaceuticals, and illegal drugs for sale, and the company said last week that it was updating its policy to include guns.
The ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns. Licensed gun dealers and gun clubs can still maintain Facebook pages and post on Instagram.
Although Facebook was not directly involved in gun sales, it has served as a forum for gun sales to be negotiated, without people having to undergo background checks.
Unlike professional gun sellers, hobbyists who sell or trade a few guns a year are not typically required to be licensed by the federal government.
In January, President Obama gave a speech promising to tighten enforcement of laws governing unlicensed gun sales. In response, some individual sellers said they would turn to sites like Facebook, which allowed them to freely advertise guns for sale.
Facebook said it would rely on its vast network of users to report any violations of the new rules, and would remove any post that violated the policy.
Beyond that, the company said it could ban users or severely limit the ways they post on Facebook, depending on the type and severity of past violations. If the company believed someone’s life was in danger, Facebook would work with law enforcement on the situation.
Facebook will also rely on user reports of private gun sales that occur between members via Facebook Messenger, the company’s private messaging service. Facebook does not scan the content of those messages.
“Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another,”
Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, said in a statement.
“We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”
Federal authorities have expressed worries that the Internet has fueled the sale of guns to felons and others who might normally be blocked from buying firearms.
Some of the guns sold on Facebook have been used in crimes.
In December 2014, for example, Brian Harleman, an Ohio man, shot and injured a former girlfriend, killed her 10-year-old daughter and committed suicide using a gun he bought through Facebook. If he had tried to buy the gun at a dealer, he would have been denied because of an earlier felony conviction.
Information Source: New York Times.