A.G. Schneiderman And Gun Safety Groups Announce Partnership With Facebook And Instagram To Curb Illegal Gun Sales Online

Facebook And Instagram To Take Down Reported Posts That Seek To Circumvent Gun Laws; Prevent Minors From Viewing Posts That Sell Firearms; Provide Education To Better Inform Law-Abiding Gun Sellers

Schneiderman: Responsible Social Media Sites Know It Is In No One’s Interest For Their Sites To Become 21st Century Black Market In Dangerous And Illegal Goods

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined Facebook, Instagram and leading gun safety organizations in announcing new policies that will help the world’s largest social networking service and owner of the most popular photo-sharing platform curb illegal sales of firearms on those platforms.

After an extensive review by the Office of the Attorney General and discussions with gun safety organizations, Facebook today introduced a series of educational and enforcement efforts for people discussing the private sale of firearms. Specifically, Facebook and Instagram agreed to remove reported user posts that seek to circumvent gun laws, take action to prevent minors from viewing posts that aim to sell firearms, and provide education to better inform law-abiding private sellers of guns.
 
“I applaud Facebook and Instagram for taking the lead in helping avoid illegal gun sales on these increasingly ubiquitous platforms,” saidAttorney General Schneiderman. “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. I congratulate Facebook and Instagram for taking these simple, common-sense steps to protect the safety and security of their users, and encourage other social media sites to follow their lead.”
 
Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management, said, “By taking these unprecedented educational and enforcement steps, we’ve been able to strike an important balance in helping people express themselves, while promoting a safe and responsible community. We are grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman and all the groups who worked with us on this approach.”

Gun safety organizations in New York and nationwide, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Americans for Responsible Solutions and Sandy Hook Promise, provided critical assistance in advocating for and developing policies that would curb circumvention of laws regulating the sale of firearms.

Shannon Watts, Founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said, "American moms are gratified that Facebook and Instagram have agreed to take meaningful steps to prevent illegal gun sales to children and dangerous people on its platforms. Our campaign showed how easy it is for minors, felons and other dangerous people to get guns online – that’s why moms and more than 230,000 Americans signed our petition, tweeted and used social media to ask Facebook and Instagram to do something about gun sales facilitated on their networks. We are happy that these companies listened to American mothers and we believe these changes are a major step toward making sure people who buy or sell guns on their platforms know the law, and follow it. Moms are particularly pleased that Facebook will block minors from seeing posts about gun sales or trades, and that we can be confident that these social networks will be safe spaces for our kids."

John Feinblatt, Chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said, “Our campaign exposed how simple it is for dangerous people to get their hands on guns, no questions asked – not only on Facebook and Instagram – but across the Internet. Unfortunately, the ‘private sale loophole’ allows anonymous parties to sell guns without background checks, and there are simply too many ways for criminals, minors and other prohibited gun purchasers to get them easily – with just the click of a mouse. We are grateful that Facebook and Instagram are making major moves to prevent these sales from happening via their platforms. We will remain vigilant in our efforts to draw attention to these critical safety issues and hold corporations and political leaders accountable to do their part to prevent gun violence.”

Leah Gunn Barrett, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said, “Once again New York's Attorney General is leading the way by helping Facebook and Instagram develop policies for posts about firearms that will protect public safety. These common sense guidelines will strengthen Facebook's ban on firearms transactions, restrict gun offers to users over the age of 18, provide checkpoints for pages, content advisories and community education, all of which will help to keep Facebook and other social media sites from turning into unregulated markets for firearms. We hope these guidelines will be a starting point for an ongoing dialog between law enforcement and social media so that public safety is enhanced and not harmed.”
 
Pia Carusone, Executive Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions, and Nicole Hockley, Communications Director for Sandy Hook Promise, said, "Facebook has taken a significant step for gun safety. We were pleased to work with Facebook on a new set of policies that protect the safety of users, particularly children, educate its users about lawful and responsible firearms transactions, and help prevent illegal activity from occurring. Specifically, the new initiative will block children from viewing firearms sales ads, inform users of the law and responsible approaches to gun transactions, and help enforce the law by deleting posts that encourage no-background check or illegal sales. While Facebook is making a serious effort to ensure safe and responsible compliance with our nation’s gun laws, we know that our laws must be strengthened. Providing background checks for internet sales is commonsense policy that allows law abiding Americans to safely exchange guns."

While neither Facebook nor Instagram is an e-commerce site, users can use these sites to promote the sale of firearms and often negotiate terms of sale in the comments.
 
During its review of the platforms, the Attorney General’s Office collected evidence that some users were advertising that they would not perform background checks or would be willing to sell to users in states with strict gun laws—like New York—that prohibit certain weapons and accessories. In addition, it appeared likely that minors would be able to acquire firearms through Facebook.
 
Under the policies announced today, Facebook and Instagram will not permit users to post offers to sell or buy firearms that indicate intent to evade or help others evade the law. This includes, for example, posts that advertise “no background check required.”

Facebook will block users under 18 years of age from viewing reported Page and Timeline posts involving private gun sales, and it will implement in-product education “checkpoints” that inform users that private gun sales might be regulated or prohibited in their location, and that background checks may be required. The checkpoints will occur for all users reported for posting a gun for sale, for all Facebook pages reported for promoting private gun sales, and for all Instagram-based searches for hashtags identified as promoting gun sales.
 
Facebook will work with advocacy groups to create a targeted ad campaign on the site that will educate users about their responsibilities under the law and to ensure safe firearms transactions, including conducting background checks.
 
Facebook will work with advocacy groups to create a targeted ad campaign on the site that will educate users about their responsibilities under the law and to ensure safe firearms transactions, including conducting background checks.
 
The Attorney General Office’s investigation into the sale of guns on Facebook and Instagram was led by Nicholas Suplina, Senior Advisor and Special Counsel, and Assistant Attorney General Clark Russell.

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