While P2P sales of guns on Facebook have been banned, implementation of the ban has proven difficult. How are payments for these trades, which violate Facebook's guidelines, completed?

In January 2016, Facebook announced that it was banning the P2P sale of guns on its website, which were taking place without any background checks. This was in response to enormous pressure mounted by anti-gun lobbyists, who had alleged that Facebook was becoming a giant mall for the sale of illegal guns.

After the ban, Amnesty International tweeted on 1-Feb-16:

“Facebook private gun sale ban is a positive step in ending gun violence & decreasing number of guns used to commit crime”

Facebook as a medium to sell guns

Facebook has historically refrained from displaying advertisements for the sale of guns, even while businesses as well as individuals have used Facebook as a medium to sell guns.

The guidelines for Facebook advertisements do not allow for the sale of weapons, ammunition and explosives. These are listed as prohibited content, along with prescription drugs, tobacco products, unsafe supplements and adult services. Ads are reviewed for conformance to policy guidelines, before being published.

A couple of months after the ban on P2P sales of guns, Forbes has reported that virtually any gun that you can think of continues to be sold on Facebook, in flagrant violation of the site's policies. Users have turned to private groups to ensure that gun sales are not viewable by the general public.

One of the problems with the implementation of this ban is that Facebook relies solely on user reports to monitor activity of groups/individuals and implement its guidelines. Facebook does not use algorithms to flag possible gun sales. Since these sales are completed primarily in private groups or on Facebook Messenger, they are seldom reported.

How is payment for these trades completed?

An update to Facebook Messenger allows you to transfer money through Messenger (rolled out in the US in 2015). Users will need to add a debit card to send/receive money. This is expected to compete with other social payment systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Forbes has confirmed that some gun sellers were willing to accept payment through Facebook Messenger from its undercover reporter. The mainstream media has not elaborated on these claims that gun sales are being made through Facebook Messenger.

However, Bitcoin continues to receive unfavourable coverage. When a hacker demands payment for restoring a compromised system in the form of Bitcoin, mainstream media coverage highlights Bitcoin prominently. Bitcoin is just a means of transferring value, a tool which can be used by everybody, by criminals as well as ordinary users.