Facebook is great for so many things. Finding out about cool events, posting articles about your political beliefs to people who already share them, or watching your exes make compromises in their personal and professional lives. However, you may not have been aware of another fun way to use Facebook: As a market for selling firearms.
Despite the fact that in January the company placed a ban on sales of guns between users, sales appear to be going strong. The company framed its decision to formally forbid the practice as not anti-gun but instead as a move to ensure that all commerce on Facebook was conducted officially through the platform. Regardless, that seems to have driven gun sales on Facebook further underground, into private groups and coded messages. BoingBoing quotes some ridiculous wink-wink, nudge-nudge posts like an advertistemnt for a $400 dining room table.... with a Glock on it. "The table style is 33 and there were only .357 made," a caption reads.
Forbes last checked in on the Facebook gun market in March to find that more than 100 active groups were operating as de facto gun classified sections. In a more recent article, the publication introduces readers to Facebook's own Chuck Rossi, a director of engineering at the social network. Also a professional marksman and certified firearms instructor, Rossi spends free time teaching his fellow employees to shoot — 400 have done so with him, he claims. And, as you might expect, Rossi has also gotten caught in the crossfire between Facebook gun groups and his employer.
“Hey all," Rossi wrote to a meta-group of Facebook gun group administrators shortly after the ban kicked in, leading many to be reported and suspended. "I first want to apologize to all of you for how this whole mess was rolled out and how it affected you. I will have more details to share on how it happened and how we’re trying to fix it... Bottom line is that we’re working on our tools so admins have a way to get their groups into compliance and back up.”
In a followup, Rossi added — in corporate jargon perfectly suited to the subject — that he was " 100% laser focused on getting your groups back to you so you have a chance to get them to comply with the new policy.... 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.”
Despite his demonstrated persistence, Rossi's success has been slow. While many groups and their sellers have taken to the clandestine approach, others have fled the platform for other online markets. Rossi also stressed to Forbes that his views don't represent those of his company. It's “just me on my own time," he said. "I’m not authorized to comment on the policy.”
That policy appears fairly fixed. “When we are made aware of content that promotes the private sale of regulated items whether in groups, on profiles, or on pages, it will be deleted,” a spokesperson told Forbes in writing.