Facebook and the NRA seem to be on the same page.
For the thousands of Facebook users who buy and sell guns legally through the social networking titan’s gun fan pages — making it one of the country’s largest online weapons exchanges — Facebook’s recent announcement, suggesting they were taking largely cosmetic steps to curtail illegal gun sales, played right into the hands of the biggest gun advocacy group in the U.S..
Indeed, the NRA declared victory after Facebook’s Wednesday announcement. The NRA also says more guns in the hands of security guards would have helped prevent gun killing sprees in American schools, like Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 26 children and teachers were gun downed in their classrooms by 20 year-old Adam Lanza in 2012.
“The NRA enjoys 150 times more support on Facebook than Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns. That’s why Bloomberg and the gun control groups he funds tried to pressure Facebook into shutting down discussion of Second Amendment issues on its social media platforms,” blared the NRA’s press release.
The NRA did not return at least a dozen requests for comment.
For the record, I’m a gun owner. I like shooting them at ranges or in the desert. It’s fun.
Facebook did nothing more than blink, say sources inside the anti-gun groups who pressured Facebook to tweak its policies. One such group is the powerful Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which is the brainchild of former three-term mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg. He is a passionate advocate for keeping guns out of the hands of children. Bloomberg is highly intelligent and is worth $33 billion. He’s an operator.
Sources inside Bloomberg’s organization and Schneiderman’s office said Facebook’s first step on the issue is a positive one. But more needs to be done. It’s not over. The fight continues.
With Facebook’s post announcing the changes, made public at a teleconference with New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman, it’s back to business as usual for most Facebook-using gun sellers and buyers. There are, however, a few caveats sprinkled in to appease the thousands of American moms scouring the dozens of Facebook pages promoting and facilitating gun deals, which VentureBeat documented in a series of stories that Scheiderman’s office credited with helping bring about the changes.
Facebook says it is now taking a more proactive approach to notifying and educating its users about following state and federal gun laws on gun themed fan pages, said Monica Bickert, Facebook’s global policy chief, in a posting heralding the company’s about face.
“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.
“We will provide special in-app education on Instagram for those who search for sales or promotions of firearms.”
Gun sellers and enthusiasts immediately took to the Facebook gun fan pages to mock the changes and offer tips on how to circumnavigate them.
“Facebook has taken real, concrete steps to stop illegal gun sales on their site,” Schneiderman said during a press conference in New York.
Sources told VentureBeat the changes are merely the first salvo in what promises to be an ongoing war to compel Facebook to get out of the “gun business.”
The teleconference, also in New York, included the group Moms Demand Action, which joined forces with Bloomberg’s group to force the issue. It is comprised of thousands of American mothers who are passionate about keeping illegal guns from the hands of kids.
As VentureBeat reported, kids are illegally buying handguns through Facebook’s gun-themed fan pages. A 15-year old was arrested in Kentucky last year after buying a 9mm handgun through a seller he met on a Facebook fan page. The kid was arrested. And the seller too. Because he crossed state lines from Ohio to Kentucky to make the sale, he is being tried in federal court.
“Facebook listened. But this is only the beginning,” a source told VentureBeat.