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Facebook agrees to delete posts for illegal gun sales

‘21st-century black market’ on internet

FILE - In this May 16, 2012 file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. Under pressure from gun control advocates, Facebook agreed Wednesday, March 5, 2014,  to delete posts from users selling illegal guns or offering weapons for sale without background checks. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, Facebook)

FILE - In this May 16, 2012 file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. Under pressure from gun control advocates, Facebook agreed Wednesday, March 5, 2014, to delete posts from users selling illegal guns or offering weapons for sale without background checks. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, Facebook)

Under pressure from gun control advocates, Facebook agreed yesterday to delete posts from users seeking to buy or sell weapons illegally or without a background check.

A similar policy will be applied to Instagram, the company’s photo-sharing network, Facebook said. The measures will be put into effect over the next few weeks at the world’s largest social network, with 1.3 billion active users.

“We will remove reported posts that explicitly indicate a specific attempt to evade or help others evade the law,” the company said in a statement.

The move reflects growing alarm that the internet is being used to sell banned weapons, evade restrictions on interstate sales, and put guns in the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers, the mentally ill or others barred under federal law from obtaining firearms. Gun control advocates say Facebook has become a significant marketplace, with thousands of firearms-related posts.

Google Plus and Craigslist already prohibit all gun sales, legal or illegal.

Facebook said that instead of patrolling its network for violators, it will rely on reports from users and the police.

The new policy was worked out in an agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been pressing the company along with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group backed by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Moms Demand Action. Moms Demand Action collected more than 230,000 signatures on petitions calling on Facebook to act.

“Responsible social media sites know that it is in no one’s interest for their sites to become the 21st-century black market in dangerous and illegal goods that place our families and communities at risk,” Schneiderman said.

Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s legislative policy arm, portrayed the new policy as a victory for the NRA, saying Bloomberg and his allies tried – and failed – to shut down discussion of gun rights on Facebook.

“NRA members and our supporters will continue to have a platform to exercise their First Amendment rights in support of their Second Amendment freedoms,” Cox said.

But Tom King, president of the NRA’s New York affiliate, warned that the policy could be used to silence gun organizations on Facebook.

“This is something that could greatly get out of control very quickly,” King said.

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