The online bazaars violate a recent ban on gun sales via Facebook and Instagram.
When Facebook launched new tools for easier buying and selling within Groups, it did not intend to create a marketplace for online arms sales. But the social network is now fighting large-scale efforts to sell military weapons to terrorists and militants on its website.
According to The New York Times, everything from handguns and grenades to heavy machine guns and guided missiles—many distributed by the US to security forces and rebel groups in the Middle East—can be secured over Facebook.
These online bazaars, however, infringe on a recent ban on private gun sales via the social network and Instagram. Users are encouraged to report violations, which are reviewed by an in-house team working with law enforcement agencies.
That's exactly what the Times did: Based on a study about arms trafficking on social media in Libya, and its own reporting in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the newspaper this week provided Facebook with seven examples of suspicious groups. Six have since been shut down; one, which displays photos of weapons but expressly forbids sales, survived the company's audit.
"It's against Facebook's Community Standards to coordinate private sales of firearms, and we remove any such content as soon as we become aware of it," a company spokeswoman told PCMag. "We encourage people to use the reporting links found across our site so that our team of experts can review content swiftly."
The sales occur primarily in countries where the Islamic State is most active. In Libya alone, Armament Research Services (ARES) has counted 250 to 300 posts about arms sales each month.
On a larger scale, about 6,000 trades were documented across the Middle East, "but it's probably much bigger than that," Nic R. Jenzen-Jones, ARES director and author of the cited study, told the Times.
Among those pages that Facebook also removed was an targeting people looking to escape the dangerous areas where these arms trades are occurring, the Times said. It offered open-ocean boat rides and "guaranteed" passage to Greece, though this has become a dangerous journeyfor desperate refugees.
Stephanie began as a PCMag reporter in May 2012. She moved to New York City from Frederick, Md., where she worked for four years as a multimedia reporter at the second-largest daily newspaper in Maryland. She interned at Baltimore magazine and graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (in the town of Indiana, in the state of Pennsylvania) with a degree in journalism and mass communications. MORE »