On January 29 2016, Facebook announced they would no longer allow peer to peer sales of guns. They made a big deal about it. Got a big write-up in the New York Times. It was a big deal. The world’s biggest social network was taking a stand against guns.
I wish they’d meant it. I really fucking do.
On June 13 2016, an asshole walked into a gay Orlando nightclub and killed 49 people with an AR15. It was the latest in a long string of gun violence in the US. And it didn’t even piss me off. At least I couldn’t tell if that massacre was pissing me off or whether I was still pissed off from the one before. They run together like water now.
I wanted to do something. But I’m too much of a chickenshit to actually put my life on the line like the courageous people I’m watching march in Baton Rouge tonight.
That’s when a friend texted me and reminded me of Facebook’s gun ban. He suggested reporting illegal gun sales. I got on Facebook, did a search for “gun for sale” and was amazed and terrified at the amount of results. I started reporting. A few hours later I realized I was gonna need some help. I got on Twitter and urged people to join in. They did. Before long I had a small army of smart miscreants trading search terms with one another. They also found tricks that people were using to get around the gun sales ban. Such as advertising a dining room table for $400, along with a photo of a Glock. “The table style is 33 and there were only .357 made.” Please also enjoy the $800 baby powder and the $150 can of Hawaiian Punch:
To date we’ve gotten about 3,000 items removed. A combination of photos, posts, and groups. We’ve reported maybe five times that many. We’ve written a how-to guide.
(I try to laugh it off, but having someone point a gun at a photo of your head is never not fucked up.) I got called a lot of names, mostly of the “libtard” social justice warrior variety. All expected.
I was posting screenshots on Facebook of some of the items we’d found. In order to encourage others to do some reporting as well. I also wanted to call bullshit on Facebook’s high and mighty PR stunt. For all the goodwill they generated, they’d done shit to implement their own ban. In their own words, they were going to rely on their users to police the site for illegal gun sales.
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. —NYTimes
Then they started banning me from posting on the site. The first time was for 24 yours, then three days, followed by seven, and finally, this evening, I was hit with a 30 day ban. Each time I was told I’d posted something that violated their Community Standards and the post was removed. Like this:
Each time I’d fill out the little form asking for clarification as to why. Never got an answer. Facebook was banning a user who was policing the site for the gun violations it had made such a big deal about just a few months earlier. Basically they were pissed off I was doing their job for them, after asking me to do their job for them.
So why hasn’t Facebook actually implemented anything to help enforce their gun ban?
On February 6 2016, about a week after Zuckerberg announced the new anti gun sale policy, Chuck Rossi, lead Facebook release engineer and gun enthusiast wrote the following to a closed group of other gun enthusiasts he administers:
“I know this new policy sucks. I personally don’t agree with it and everyone in Facebook is pissed about how it was rolled out.” —Forbes
For those of you not familiar with what a release engineer does it’s very simple. A release engineer decides what features make it onto the site. They decide what gets pushed live. A good engineer is a blessing. They keep buggy software from launching. They make sure stuff works correctly. They make sure nothing breaks. They’re the last line of defense against shit work. They’re the gatekeeper.
When the person responsible for enforcing your policies flat out refuses to do so, you’re not going to enforce a lot of policies.
So why are we doing this? By all accounts, a large amount of the posts and groups we get taken down go right back up. It’s depressing. But for all those that go back up a few manage to stay down. And that’s not nothing. That one gun sale we stop might have been the gun that was going to get used in a killing. And, fuck, we have to do something.
We can’t do less than we’ve been doing.