Senate Democrats question Facebook's rules against gun sales on platform

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 10, 2018. In a letter sent to Zuckerberg last week, three senators asked the Facebook founder and executive for documentation about how the company enforces its ban on peer-to-peer firearm sales.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 10, 2018. In a letter sent to Zuckerberg last week, three senators asked the Facebook founder and executive for documentation about how the company enforces its ban on peer-to-peer firearm sales. (Alex Brandon, Associated Press)



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WASHINGTON — Three Senate Democrats want Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to be more transparent about how the social media giant regulates gun sales on the platform, after reporting shows the site allows gun sellers to violate internal rules 10 times before being kicked off the platform.

What's happening: In a letter sent to Zuckerberg last week, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked the Facebook founder and executive for documentation about how the company enforces its ban on peer-to-peer firearm sales, according to the Washington Post.

Facebook prohibits gun sales on its service, but buyers and sellers can violate the policy up to 10 times before being kicked off the platform, according to internal guidance obtained by the Washington Post earlier this month.

Gun buyers or sellers who actively call for violence or praise a "known dangerous organization" are still given five strikes before removal.

"Facebook's 10-strike policy is unwarranted and dangerous," the senators wrote. "Giving users multiple opportunities to sell weapons that can end up in the wrong hands is a loophole that calls into question Facebook's representations about and commitment to ending gun sales on its platform."

A spokesman for Meta, Facebook's parent company, told the Post that Facebook quickly removes posts that break the rules and has increasingly harsh penalties for repeat rule breakers.

Why it matters: The letter comes as Congress passed the first major piece of federal gun legislation in decades last week, which has incentives for states to enact red flag laws, provides $13 billion to bolster public safety and mental health investments, and bars people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions against dating partners from buying a firearm for at least five years.

It's also the latest attempt to hold Big Tech accountable for information shared on social media sites and other platforms. In February, a separate group of Democratic senators asked YouTube to do a better job of removing videos about making "ghost guns," weapons that can be built from at-home kits and are nearly impossible to trace, according to The Hill.

Despite Meta's rules against guns on their platforms, weapons, kits and ammunition are widely available for sale on Facebook and Instagram, according to the Guardian.

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko

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