Senator Calls on Facebook, Instagram to End Gun Sales on Social Sites

In a July 13 letter, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., questioned whether the companies were doing enough to curb “deadly weapon” sales between users.

by / July 15, 2016

In an open letter to the heads of social media companies Facebook and Instagram, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., called on the popular websites to do more to stop the sales of firearms by users.

The July 13 letter jointly addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, and questioned whether the companies were doing enough to curb “deadly weapon” sales between users. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012.

The senator’s letter outlined concerns that violent offenders, like the one responsible for the fatal July 7 shooting of five police officers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Dallas, continue to have unfettered access to firearms through user-to-user sales.

“It has also been reported that in 2014, Micah Johnson, the perpetrator of the police shootings in Dallas, Texas, purchased an AK47 through Facebook,” read the letter. “I urge you once again to take immediate measures to prevent illegal firearms sales through Facebook and Instagram.”

Markey, whose office did not respond to requests for comment by press time, is an outspoken advocate for “common sense” gun control reform. In his letter, he wrote that in 2013, he urged Instagram to “follow the example of other online marketplace entities such as Craigslist and eBay.”

When asked about their response to the senator’s correspondence, a representative from the social media companies said, "We prohibit people from using Facebook and Instagram to offer and coordinate private sales of firearms. Any content that violates this policy will be removed as soon as we become aware of it — whether it is in groups, on accounts or on pages."

The spokesperson would not comment on the specifics of the action taken to date, or whether additional steps would be taken in the future.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.