What just happened? Facebook has announced it is changing its advertising policy to stop gun accessory ads being shown to those under 18 years of age. The social network already prohibits advertisements for weapons and modifications, though it allows ads for items such as mounted flashlights, scopes, and holsters. But it will soon place restrictions on who can see these.
In addition to disallowing the sale of firearms, Facebook doesn't place ads for parts, ammo, silencers, paintball guns, and bb guns on the platform. Advertisements for other weapons such as pepper sprays, knives, tasers, and batons are also banned. But it does allow certain accessories to be advertised. Starting this Thursday (June 21), however, Facebook is requiring sellers to “restrict their audiences to at least 18 years of age or over.”
Facebook is arguably going through the toughest time in its 14-year history right now, with controversies including Cambridge Analytica, setting private posts to public by default, and the data sharing programs putting it under intense scrutiny. In the wake of mass school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, the company doesn't want any more bad publicity and is looking to reduce visibility of weapon-related ads among minors.
Other tech giants have been clamping down on anything related to firearms recently. Back in March, YouTube said it would no longer allow content that "Intends to sell firearms or certain firearms accessories through direct sales...or links to sites that sell these items." It also suspended several channels, including one belonging to gun manufacturer Spike’s Tactical. Reddit, meanwhile, banned communities trading firearms earlier this year.
A number of companies have changed their gun emoji for water pistols recently. Apple was first to make the switch two years ago, following pressure from campaigners such as New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. But firms say they’re following in Cupertino’s footsteps to avoid any cross-platform confusion.