Facebook. The social network. A hotbed for gun buying and selling. Still.
That’s correct, even with all sorts of high tech ways to monitor its users, Facebook is still a preferred platform for many gun owners to transfer, buy, sell and trade firearms. I’m sure you’re wondering, How can that be? Didn’t Facebook ban private person-to-person sales earlier this year?
Yes, it did. And anti-gunners gleefully celebrated the decision, suggesting that it was a major victory for the gun-control movement.
“Moms are grateful for Facebook’s leadership today in announcing that they will end all unlicensed gun sales arranged on their platforms,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, following the February announcement.
“Two years ago, our campaign to get Facebook to change how their platforms host firearm sales resulted in nine new policies to curb children’s exposure to guns and to clarify state laws around selling and buying guns online,” continued Watts.
“Our continued relationship with Facebook resulted in today’s even stronger stance, which will prevent dangerous people from getting guns and save American lives,” said Watts.
But, what we’re seeing now is that although Facebook banned gun sales in principle, in practice it’s virtually done nothing to enforce the new rule. Well, that’s not entirely true. It relies on “community policing” to enforce the ban. What does that mean? It means it’s relying on users to report posts that have guns for sale in them.
“We rely on reports from our community of 1.5 billion people to help us enforce our community standards which prohibit any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade firearms on our site,” said a Facebook spokesperson to Forbes. “Any piece of content on Facebook including posts, photos, videos, and messages can be reported. When something is reported to us, our team investigates and removes any content that violates our terms.”
Community policing might work in a general forum, where all users have access to the boards. But most of the buying and selling on Facebook takes place in private groups, which are off limits to non-members.
So, for the ban to really take hold, Facebook is depending on like-minded shooters, hobbyists and collectors to report one another for doing what they joined these private groups to do in the first place: buy, sell, trade guns. It’s like asking the kids to run the classroom. Yeah, that’s not going to happen — and it isn’t happening.
What’s interesting is that Facebook has the technological capability — via image recognition software — to shut down private sales. It’s just choosing not to do it, as one computer hacker noted.
“Who wants to wade into the middle of the gun debate? Nobody, especially right now,” Justin Seitz told Forbes. “I just wish Facebook would tell the truth. Don’t say you don’t have the capability, or the resources, because that’s bullshit. Just say you don’t want to be involved in the debate.”
To prove his point, Seitz showed just how easy it is to use image recognition to find gun-related posts on another popular, social media platform: Twitter. In just a few hours, with the help of an open-source software produced by Imagga, Seitz was able to target posts with photos and keywords indicating that a firearm was present. He had an accuracy rate of about 90 percent, meaning 90 out of 100 posts contained a gun.
“If they (Imagga) actually tuned this to detect guns, they would be very, very good at it,” noted Seitz. “They could build one that’s even more accurate.”
Bottom line, if Facebook really wanted to end private person-to-person sales, it could. Very easily. It certainly has the money, the manpower and the technology to get the job done. As Seitz, a Canadian resident said, “If a hacker from Saskatchewan, Canada can do it with a budget of zero dollars, I’m pretty sure Facebook, with all its resources, could probably put an end to this.”
So why isn’t Facebook living up to its promise to Everytown? Why hasn’t it cracked down on private transfers? Is Facebook secretly pro-gun? Is it a money thing? Does it not want to lose the patronage of the millions of gun owners who use Facebook? Is it a political thing?
I don’t have the answers to those question. But what I do know from my personal experience dealing with Facebook is that it has recently softened its stance on the promotion of gun-related ads.
In the past, when we tried to pay money to boost a post (pay a small sum of money to reach more readers), Facebook would reject the post, citing its policy on the promotion of weapons. Here is an example of a past rejection:
However, just this week I submitted a request to boost our post on our Thompson Giveaway (check it out, it’s an epic giveaway!) and it was randomly approved. The giveaway we ran before that, the Hoffner Knives, was also approved. Again, months ago, Facebook would never have allowed this. But now it is. What gives? What’s changed?
If I didn’t know any better, it looks like Facebook is trying to squeeze out every dime it can from its users, corporate and otherwise. I’ll go on the record and say, I don’t like Facebook. It’s gotten too big, too powerful and too intrusive. It literally knows too much about its users. In fact, I bet it knows exactly who owns guns and who doesn’t, who is pro-2A and who is not, who is buying and selling guns and who isn’t.
How long will Facebook keep this laissez-faire attitude with respect to gun owners is anyone’s guess. But eventually, one has to believe that the hammer will drop and those law-abiding buyers and sellers, those hobbyists and collectors who use the platform for transfers will be left out in the cold. My advice. Get out now. Join a community that is unabashedly and unapologetically pro-gun. Join a community where you can safely sell guns to fellow patriots without the corporate monitoring and hassle of being outed for violating a stupid, anti 2A policy. If only I could think of one… Oh yeah, check out this website, I heard it’s pretty awesome.