Even though Facebook banned private gun sales in January, firearm ads still crop up on the site faster than Facebook’s censors can catch them. That’s where a dedicated group of activists comes in.
According to a report in Mashable, a group of online activists has taken it upon themselves to find and report private gun sales on Facebook, sometimes flagging dozens or even hundreds per week. The group doesn’t believe Facebook does enough to enforce its own rules, so they decided to pick up the slack.
“That announcement in January feels like a pure PR move,” said activist John Sibley. “It doesn’t change anything, just gets them some good press.”
The group has asked Facebook why it can’t create an algorithm to target gun sales, but the social media giant says that such a tool would also flag perfectly acceptable discussions about firearms. The activists face many more hurdles than just Facebook’s inaction, however; some say they’ve even faced harassment and death threats from pro-gun Facebook users. Still, they say they’re doing a small part to prevent untraceable transactions that could put a gun into the wrong hands.
The flaggers have also discovered tricks that gun sellers use to sneak ads by Facebook’s censors, including disguising guns in other pictures.
“One said ‘I’m selling this shirt, comes with everything in the picture,’ and in the picture is a gun with magazines and ammunition,” one activist said.
It’s disheartening that Facebook needs to rely so much on users to enforce its own rules, but it’s a good thing there are do-gooders like this willing to do the work.