Gun sellers allowed 10 strikes from Facebook: report

Tech

The mobile phone apps for, from left, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are shown on a device in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(The Hill) — Facebook is allowing marketplace buyers and sellers to violate its ban on gun purchases 10 times before they are kicked off the platform, according to a Thursday report from The Washington Post. 

The Post reported that Facebook’s guidelines also include a five-strikes system for gun sellers and buyers who call for violence or voice support for a “known dangerous organization” before they lose Facebook access. Facebook reportedly banned the private sale of guns on its website more than five years ago but has not publicly explained in much detail how the company enforces the ban. 

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told The Post that the company takes down posts that violate its policy quickly and applies increasingly severe consequences for repeat offenders, up to permanently suspending an account. 

“If we identify any serious violations that have the potential for real-world harm, we don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement,” Stone said. 

He said almost 90 percent of those who receive one strike will not receive more than one additional one, adding that violators are mostly unaware of Facebook’s policies and don’t violate them again once they are told about it. 

But The Post reported that Facebook did not dispute that it has a 10-strikes rule. 

After the story was published, Stone responded on Twitter, claiming the article “distorts” the company’s approach to penalizing violators. 

The Post reported that Facebook’s system for enforcing the ban is “shrouded in secrecy.” In response, Stone posted that the guidelines are available online. While they lay out the penalties for up to “five or more” violations, these guidelines do not mention the 10-strike system. The Post’s story does mention this system, stating the website does not explain what warrants a full ban or how certain types of policy violations are compared to others. 

Stone wrote that penalties become more severe for repeated violations and most violations are unintentional, which The Post included in its story. He wrote the story “excluded key examples” but did not clarify what they might be. 

Stone added that there are “one-and-done” violations and said the story mischaracterized how strikes and “other factors” cause an account to be removed at one strike. The Post’s story does note that users who post child pornography or terrorist images are immediately removed. 

One of the reporters who wrote the story, Elizabeth Dworkin, said on Twitter that the facts Stone claimed were left out were mentioned in several paragraphs of the article.

“Please stop posting misinformation about our piece,” she said. “Despite our repeatedly asking for examples of how the strikes systems is applied to different types of content, you did not share it. When you do, we will no longer say the system is shrouded in secrecy.”

The two reporters on the story spoke to six current and former employees about the policy on condition of anonymity. Two of them said the strike threshold for gun sale violations was more than 10 until 2020, but it was reduced to 10 after some argued it was too high. 

The company introduced a five-strike rule for gun sellers with other types of violations late last year. A user will be immediately removed and referred to law enforcement for making a direct or “credible” threat to kill a specific person, but this happens rarely, the employees said.

The story came amid renewed discussions on gun violence following the latest rash of mass shootings.

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