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Facebook in talks to crack down on illegal gun sales

February 25th, 2014 3:35 pm by By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Facebook in talks to crack down on illegal gun sales

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SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is in talks with two gun-control groups that are pressuring the giant social network to crack down on illegal gun sales and trades.

“We are talking with a number of organizations around our policies on guns,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Facebook also noted that it’s common for the company to engage with advocacy groups concerned about hate speech, bullying and other hot-button issues.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have stepped up their demands after recent gun arrests were tied to sales of guns facilitated through Facebook.

An Ohio man was indicted on charges he illegally sold a 9 mm handgun across state lines to a 15-year-old from Kentucky whom he reportedly connected with on Facebook.

A convicted felon in Iowa was apprehended after he allegedly bought guns illegally through a connection he made on Facebook to an undercover police officer who was running a sting operation.

The gun control campaign is also taking aim at Facebook’s photo-sharing service Instagram.

“We recently began conversations with Facebook about what they can do to end the easy access to guns on its platform—because until they do, they are taking the risk that they are facilitating the illegal sale of guns on their social network,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in an emailed statement. “American moms are the No. 1 demographic on Facebook — and we don’t want guns sold into dangerous hands on the same site where we post our family photos.”

Facebook bans ads on its service that promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition and explosives. It also does not allow people to post illegal content related to weapons on its service. And no one can buy and sell guns on Facebook itself since there is no way to conduct a transaction on the service. But gun enthusiasts can connect there.

“You can’t buy things on Instagram and Facebook, nor can you promote the sale or use of weapons in advertising. We encourage people who come across any illegal activity to report it to us,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Facebook isn’t the only service under fire from gun control advocates. Online forum Reddit has been criticized for facilitating gun deals.

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