In a dramatic move to satisfy anti-gun groups, the popular social media networks Facebook and Instagram announced today they planned to restrict content they say promotes the illegal sale of firearms.
According an announcement sent to Grand View Outdoors by a Facebook spokesman, the social media network will police all posts relating to the sale of what the company calls "regulated items," which includes tobacco products, alcohol and firearms. The company specifically targets guns by warning potential sellers that they must "comply with relevant laws and regulations" and will only allow those over the age of 18 to read the posts.
"People sometimes use our free tools to discuss products that are regulated or controversial," Facebook said in its statement. "While we've recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms, 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 move comes after efforts by gun control groups Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns pressured Facebook and Instagram to restrict gun-related content on their sites. The groups have been trying to get high-profile businesses like Staples and Starbucks to ban firearms on their premises.
In a statement applauding the Facebook policy, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said her group's efforts to pressure companies to institute "common sense" gun policy will continue.
"Moms have momentum and we&'re moving the country toward a culture of gun safety one company, one legislator, one law at a time," Watts said. "We're going to keep applying pressure to corporations and political leaders until they do more to reduce the gun violence that plagues our country."
Recent crime statistics issued from the FBI show gun violence continues its 30 year decline — even as 2013 marked one of the highest rates of gun sales and concealed carry permit requests. A recent Gallup poll showed a more than 300 percent increase in the percentage of Americans who think U.S. gun laws are too strict.
A Facebook spokesman said in an interview his company spoke "with all sides of the debate" in arriving at the new rules to curb firearms transactions. But while the Facebook statement said the company "worked with a number of individuals and organizations on the development of these efforts," it lists only gun control groups who helped develop the policy.
"We are grateful in particular for the advice offered by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Sandy Hook Promise, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action, which helped us develop an approach for the private sale of firearms," the company said.
Facebook said it will institute the new rules in the coming weeks.