Sunday, December 15, 2019
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On Facebook’s ban of private gun sales

Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, responded to President Barack Obama’s recent call to curb unlicensed gun sales, which circumvent routine background checks, by banning private sales of guns on its flagship social network and on Instagram, the New York Times reports.

Facebook announced that it would prohibit private gun sales on its network.

The company announced that it would rely on its vast network of users—the site is visited approximately 1.6 billion times every month—to flag objectionable content and that the site could further block certain users who repeatedly violate the new guidelines or prevent them from posting many types of content the rest of us enjoy.

Facebook already bans the sale of some substances that are legal, including marijuana, and we hold that Facebook, as a corporate citizen, is perfectly within its rights to control traffic on a server that it owns and controls. Legal experts agree that the move is a positive one as well. “Today’s announcement is another positive step toward our shared goal of stopping illegal online gun sales once and for all,” the Times quoted New York’s attorney general, Eric T Schneiderman, as saying in a statement yesterday.

And from a legal standpoint, this isn’t really much different from a corporation like Wal-Mart banning the sale of lemonade by kids on property that it owns and controls. We therefore respect Facebook’s right to restrict activity in this way. Now if we could find a way to enforce Facebook’s ban on cyberbullying, we might have a good social network for kids.

The announcement here is simply one of what Facebook plans to do. Whether users will step up to the company’s wishes remains to be seen, since Facebook doesn’t monitor all the traffic that crosses its network.

“Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another,” the paper quoted Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, as saying in a statement. “We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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