Snitchbook: Facebook Relying Solely on 'Network of Users' to Enforce Gun-Sale Ban

A great deal was made of Facebook's announcement last week that it would ban private gun sales on both its flagship website and Instagram.

Readers who only followed establishment press accounts can be forgiven if they came away from most reports thinking that the firm has some kind of algorithm or recognition system for enforcing the ban. That's not so.

The Associated Press led the way in misdirection, while trying to minimize the number of people who might actually read Brandon Bailey's Friday evening story by employe a blatantly deceptive headline:

FACEBOOK ANNOUNCES STRICTER POLICY ON FIREARMS SALES

Ho-hum. Just a "stricter policy." Many computer, tablet and smartphone users who only saw the headline surely reacted by thinking that it really wasn't a big deal, and as a result wouldn't have clicked through to see Bailey's opening (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Facebook says it's cracking down on online gun sales, announcing Friday a new policy barring private individuals from advertising or selling firearms on the world's largest social network.

So it's really a ban, not some vague "stricter policy." Here's more:

The new policy applies also to Facebook's photo-sharing service Instagram. It comes after gun control groups have long complained that Facebook and other online sites are frequently used by unlicensed sellers and buyers not legally eligible to buy firearms.

... Licensed firearms retailers can still promote their businesses on Facebook, but they aren't allowed to accept orders or make sales on the site.

A Facebook Inc. spokeswoman said the new policy arose from the company's review of its rules following its recent efforts to encourage new forms of commerce on the site.

The AP story, and most other establishment stories found elsewhere, did not address how Facebook will enforce the ban. CNN did, and relayed a company claim that "it has systems in place to detect private gun sales and that it will remove content that violates its new policy."

"Systems"? It took five paragraphs, but New York Times reporters Vindu Goel and Mike Isaac, in a Friday story, at least identified what those specific "systems" are — and they certainly don't involve computer magic, or even any form of automation:

Facebook said it would rely on its vast network of users to report any violations of the new rules, and would remove any post that violated the policy. Beyond that, the company said it could ban users or severely limit the ways they post on Facebook, depending on the type and severity of past violations. If the company believed someone’s life was in danger, Facebook would work with law enforcement on the situation.

Facebook will also rely on user reports of private gun sales that occur between members via Facebook Messenger, the company’s private messaging service. Facebook does not scan the content of those messages.

In other words, the company's "system" will consist entirely of tips from snitches. It won't do anything to monitor Messenger communications, something which one might think it could actually do. It's going to rely solely on snitches there as well. I heard confirmation that this is exactly what the company's enforcement measure will be at about 1:30 p.m. on Monday during a CNN broadcast while it was playing inside a restaurant. Maybe someone who was on that broadcast should look at the misdirection in the CNN story linked above.

This is an "impressive" corporate move by Facebook and its committed leftist President Mark Zuckerberg. The company won't be directly spending a dime of its own money (though chasing down user tips will involve some expense down the road), but it gets all kinds of immediate goodwill from the gun-despising press and gun-confiscation advocates. Bailey's AP dispatch reports that the gun-grabbers just love it:

The latest policy drew praise Friday from Everytown for Gun Safety, a group formed by the merger of (Shannon) Watts's organization with another group started by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and from a leader of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"It is simply too easy for virtually anyone to buy any gun they want online without a Brady background check," said the Brady group's president, Dan Gross. "Facebook just took an important step in addressing that challenge and we call on others to follow suit."

Facebook did nothing of the sort. As David Codrea at the Ammoland blog noted, the company simply imitated what the mainland Chinese government has been doing for a decade, with an important difference:

Borrowing a tactic from the (Chinese) police state playbook, Facebook’s “No Guns” enforcement will be dependent on an army of citizen snitches. Based on comments on gun-grabber social media pages, their fascist members are eager to do what they can to get gun owner accounts closed out for “violations.”

The difference is that the Chinese use an army of watchers who are paid. Facebook is relying on free help while claiming credit for being a responsible corporate citizen. Is this a great country or what? (That's sarcasm, folks.)

At some point down the road, if the snitch method isn't getting enough help from free online censors, Facebook can say, "Well, since we don't have enough snitches, darn it, we're just going to have to give the antigun groups access to some of our admin controls so they can stop gun deals dead in their tracks in real time." Bloomberg's minions will salivate at the prospect, perhaps even fundraising over this newfound mission.

Once again, to left-oriented company, 1984 ends up being a user's manual instead of a warning — and the press is fine with it.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.