Facebook announces a crackdown on private individuals selling guns


By Brandon Bailey, AP

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook says it’s cracking down on online gun sales, announcing Friday a new policy barring private individuals from advertising or selling firearms on the world’s largest social network.

The new policy applies also to Facebook’s photo-sharing service Instagram. It comes after gun control groups have long complained that Facebook and other online sites are frequently used by unlicensed sellers and buyers not legally eligible to buy firearms.

Facebook “was unfortunately and unwittingly serving as an online platform for dangerous people to get guns,” said Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that launched a public campaign to convince the social network to change its policies two years ago.

Watts said her group has found numerous cases of felons and minors who were able to buy guns on the site, including two cases in which the buyers used the guns to slay others. Representatives of two gun-owner rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Facebook had announced some restrictions on gun sales and advertising in 2014, saying it would block minors from seeing posts that advertised guns. But the social network did not ban private sales at that time.

Licensed firearms retailers can still promote their businesses on Facebook, but they aren’t allowed to accept orders or make sales on the site.

A Facebook Inc. spokeswoman said the new policy arose from the company’s review of its rules following its recent efforts to encourage new forms of commerce on the site. Facebook expanded its digital payments service last summer, allowing users of its Messenger service to send electronic payments to other individual users.