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File photo of guns by Jim Young/Reuters

Facebook bans private gun sales on social networks

Facebook is banning private gun sales from being advertised on its social media networks, the company announced late Friday.

The move was initiated to avert “peer-to-peer sales of weapons,” according to a company spokesperson. The policy change would also be extended to the photo-sharing site, Instagram, which Facebook owns.

Licensed gun dealers will still be allowed to have Facebook pages, but only if they do not use the sites to sell their products. Facebook said it would rely on users to flag posts and messages when the new rule is violated.

Facebook, the largest social network in the world with more than 1.5 billion users, also said its policies prohibit users from selling marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs, according to a statement released by the company. The policies were last reviewed two years ago.

“Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another,” said Monika Bickert, the company’s head of product policy. “We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution”

In 2014, Facebook said it would install some restriction on gun sales by blocking minors from viewing posts advertising weapons.

The measure was taken after company was pressured by a number of gun-control advocacy groups and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to end online sales.

One of those advocacy groups, Moms Demand Action, said in a statement Friday it was “grateful” for the more recent policy change.

“Two years ago, our campaign to get Facebook to change how their platforms host firearm sales resulted in nine new policies to curb children’s exposure to guns and to clarify state laws around selling and buying guns online,” said Shannon Watts, the groups founder. “Our continued relationship with Facebook resulted in today’s even stronger stance, which will prevent dangerous people from getting guns and save American lives.”

The National Rifle Association has yet to respond to the Facebook decision, multiple media outlets reported.

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