Facebook and Instagram users are now banned from privately trading firearms via the sites.

Facebook prohibited global users from co-ordinating person-to-person private sales of firearms on its social network and its photo-sharing service, Instagram, on Friday, countering concerns it was being used to circumvent background checks on gun purchases.

The move comes as the US debates the issue of access to guns after a string of mass shootings. President Barack Obama has urged social media companies to clamp down on gun sales organised on their platforms.

It updates Facebook’s regulated goods policy, introduced in March 2014, which banned people from selling marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs on the platform.

Facebook already prohibited private firearms sellers from advertising “no background check required”, or offering transactions across US state lines without a licensed dealer, because the company said such posts indicated a willingness to evade the law.

Licensed retailers will still be able to advertise firearms on Facebook that lead to transactions outside of Facebook’s service, the spokesperson said.

“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, Facebook’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,” Bickert said.

Facebook is the world’s most popular social network, with 1.59 billion users across the globe, 219 million of whom are in the United States and Canada.

The National Rifle Association, a lobbying group opposed to limits on US gun ownership rights, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Groups advocating increased gun control applauded the new policy.

“Moms are grateful for the leadership shown by Facebook today,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of the Everytown for Gun Safety campaign group. “Our continued relationship with Facebook resulted in today’s even stronger stance, which will prevent dangerous people from getting guns and save American lives.”

(c) 2016 ITWeb Limited. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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