The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

March 5, 2014

Facebook cracking down on illegal gun sales planned on site

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is cracking down on illegal gun sales planned through its website, seeking to prevent criminal activity and setting a precedent other social-media sites could follow.

Facebook will delete posts where users declare a willingness to break the law, such as to sell a gun without a background check or transport it across state lines, the company said Wednesday in a blog post. People who promote private sales of guns - or other regulated goods and services - might get a message from Facebook reminding them to comply with the law, while pages related to such activities will have to include language about the importance of following the law.

The world's largest social network is responding to criticism from advocacy groups, such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which have lobbied Facebook for months to regulate users' posts about firearms for sale on their profiles and group pages. While no money changes hands on the site, the groups say it enabled illegal sales by failing to police the conversations that led to them. Facebook said it worked to find a solution that wouldn't limit free expression.

"This is one of many areas where we face a difficult challenge balancing individuals' desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere," the company said in the post. "We believe these collective efforts represent the right approach in balancing people's desire to express themselves while promoting a safe, responsible community."

To find the offenders, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook will rely on its 1.2 billion members, who can flag a post if they think it violates the policy, which extends to all "commonly regulated" items and services, such as drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

Because transactions don't take place on the network, it will be difficult to track the success of the new effort. Still, the interest groups are marking the policy shift as a victory, said John Feinblatt, chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

 "Facebook approached this in a problem-solving manner, trying to pinpoint what actually on their site caused potential damage and tried to emphasize the areas we actually agreed on, rather than dwell on what we don't," Feinblatt said. Facebook's actions will "reverberate among its peers in social media," he said.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

Facebook already prohibits or restricts advertisements about illegal drugs, weapons and other regulated products and services. The company also takes down posts that are violent or illegal. For example, if a user in Germany posted content that denies the Holocaust, which is banned in the country, it would be removed. The company last year also tried to address the issue of hate speech, following complaints the site allowed content that encouraged violence against women.

The new features include age restrictions depending on a country's laws. For example, a flagged post about selling alcohol in the United States would be limited to people over 21 years old.

Facebook is also making changes on Instagram, the photo- sharing network it purchased for about $700 million in 2012. If members search the application for sales or promotions related to firearms, they will receive a message reminding them to follow the law.

Facebook isn't the first company to assess its involvement with guns. General Electric conducted stricter audits of GE Capital's financing of retailers who sell firearms after the murder of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. The new guidelines came as part of a 2008 decision to stop financing to "merchants whose primary business is to sell firearms."

Facebook said it collaborated with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Sandy Hook Promise and other gun-safety groups to come up with its plan.

"Responsible social-media sites know that it is in no one's interest for their sites to become a 21st-century black market in dangerous and illegal goods that place our families and communities at risk," Schneiderman said Wednesday in a statement. He said he will "encourage other social-media sites to follow their lead."

The social network's move is unlikely to have any effect on sales of used guns, because people will find another way to get cash for their firearms, according to Andrea James, an analyst at Dougherty & Co. who follows the industry.

"If Facebook closed down these groups, they would simply move elsewhere," James said.

 

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Fist bump photo Study: Fist bumps less germy than handshakes

    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rodden, Danny.jpg Indiana sheriff accused of lying about relationship with prostitute

    The sheriff of Clark County, Ind., faces an eight-count federal indictment that accuses him of lying about paying a prostitute for a sex act and giving her a badge so that she could claim a discount rate at a hotel.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Clinton judge hears motion to suppress in drug case

    District Court Judge Stuart Werling will consider a motion of suppression against a warrant that led to the arrest of a Clinton man on drug charges.

    July 30, 2014

  • David Johnson Clinton grad, NDSU picked to lead MVC

     David Johnson, the former Clinton High standout now entering his senior season at the University of Northern Iowa, was named to the preseason All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first team that was announced Tuesday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • School supplies offered at events

    With students going back to school soon, Clinton families will have two opportunities to receive free back-to-school supplies.

    July 30, 2014

  • Showboat follies Iafrate set to leave Showboat Theatre

    As the summer season nears its end, the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre on Tuesday honored the past and said hello to the future.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sidewinders photo Debating decibels: Finally Fridays, Showboat at odds over concert volume

    Two events will take center stage at the riverfront Friday. And if it’s anything like the last time these entities shared the same evening, both crowds may want to take note of the decibel levels coming from the bandshell.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140727-AMX-GUNS271.jpg Beretta, other gun makers heading to friendlier states

    In moving south and taking 160 jobs with it, Beretta joins several other prominent gunmakers abandoning liberal states that passed tough gun laws after the Newtown shooting.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video