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facebook212Facebook announced today that it will take steps to prevent illegal gun sales on its site and Instagram, following intense pressure from groups in favor of gun control.

The company said that it will remove posts that advertise gun sales with no background check, and will also remove posts that offer to sell firearms across state lines without using an authorized dealer to do so.

The announcement comes after pro-gun control groups including Sandy Hook Promise, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action have been pressuring Facebook to do something about the sales that have been taking place over the company’s platforms. For quite some time, users on Instagram and Facebook have been offering firearms and other items for sale in posts both on their personal profiles and on specialized pages.

In addition, Facebook said that it planned to educate users about compliance with government regulations for firearms and other “commonly regulated items,” such as marijuana sold by a legal dispensary. Here’s a breakdown of what the company plans to do:

  • 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.

While those steps move towards greater regulation of private sales on Facebook and Instagram, it’s hard to say just what sort of an effect they will have just yet. Facebook can’t police every post, and will rely on users reporting posts and pages that don’t comply with the new rules. What’s more, even if users don’t advertise sales without a background check, it’s still possible for them to take place on Facebook or Instagram.

Google has been able to curb similar activity on Google+ thanks to similar regulations, so it is possible for Facebook’s strategy to work.

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