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Facebook’s Gun Control Move: PR Win?

You may have heard that Facebook responded to pressure from gun control advocacy groups by moving to crack down on illegal gun sales facilitated by its network. Here’s last night’s report from CBS New York:

Whether one see this as a big victory, an insignificant step or a stinging defeat depends—surprise, surprise—on politics.

If you’re New York Attorney General (and huge Donald Trump fan) Eric Schneidermann, you might see this as a big deal. If you’re a cautious gun control supporter, you might see it as a small but important step toward more effective (but sensible) regulation. If you’re the director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, you might say that the move doesn’t go nearly far enough. And if you’re the NRA or a member of any given “from my cold, dead hands” organization, you’ll call it a victory for freedom of speech over people like Mike Bloomberg, because…?

Looks like Facebook tried to please everyone here by doing as little as possible, effectively saying “we are not a retailer, but we will prevent minors from visiting related pages and delete posts that encourage others to break the law in states where that might apply (as long as other users report them first).”

So what they really did was officially ban something that was already illegal. Hard to call that activism.

From a communications perspective, we can’t get over the language in some of these releases. To our knowledge, no one proposed shuttering gun advocacy groups’ pages, so what does “…pressure Facebook into shutting down discussion of Second Amendment issues on its social media platforms” even mean? How does the illegal sale of firearms constitute a “discussion?”

Politics aside, it seems that Facebook succeeded in creating as little outrage as possible with this move. What do we think?

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