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Facebook’s Policy On Guns: Changed? Yes. Improved? Not Much.

To the Editor:

Facebook recently announced that it is improving its policies regarding the unlicensed sale of guns through its site. Yes, the policies have been changed, but only minimally improved; the changes will do very, very little to reduce this trade.

First, the monitoring of questionable postings and pages will be left to the members; it will not be the responsibility of Facebook itself. The company will only contact the originators with a reminder that s/he should follow the law when/if a transaction results. Can you imagine how many inappropriate postings and pages will escape this “control”?

In contrast, Google has invested in “robust automation tools to ensure users are flagged almost immediately for violating policy terms” on Google+. Why can’t Facebook?

Second, not only will the limited monitoring to be expected from members restrict the coverage but so will Facebook's unchanged policy that it will delete or suppress only posts that explicitly offer guns for sale without a background check. Unfortunately, experience tells us that this condition is easily circumvented by the simplest editing, i.e. don’t mention background checks, thus enabling dangerous people to get guns.

Facebook says, “...[W]e face a difficult challenge balancing individuals' desire to express themselves on our services, and recognize that this speech may have consequences elsewhere,” but this was not much of a challenge for Google, Craigslist, or eBay who have long since prohibited all posts from unlicensed sellers that advertise guns for sale. Facebook has fallen far short of the bar these other websites have set.

Curiously Facebook's paid advertising policy does not allow advertising guns for sale so it clearly sees the risks inherent in this business online. Why is it allowing unlicensed sellers to do exactly the same thing - for free?

Third, Facebook has touted as part of its new policy more use of “educational language” but its guidelines on when, where, and how make it very unlikely to be seen by many people since it will only be send such language after a site has been reported and then it will be relegated to the "About Us" section of pages.

Even much maligned sites like Armslist.com require every visitor to confirm they have read language about legal responsibilities before they can enter the site. Why not Facebook?

Confusing? Yes. Satisfactory? No.

Could it be that Facebook’s commitment to social responsibility has not yet caught up to its commitment to dominate social media? Let them know how you feel.

Respectfully

Tom Campbell

The Greater Danbury Brady Campaign

29 Hamilton Drive, Danbury                      March 10, 2014

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