Facebook and Instagram have, among other things, become prime targets for online sales, in both perfectly legitimate and highly questionable ways. Well, that’s not lost on Facebook, which today has provided a clarification and a few new policies about using Facebook and Instagram as your own personal marketplace.
The announcement mostly deals with either illegal or highly restricted products. Facebook clarified that they do not allow advertising for illegal drugs, tobacco products, prescription medication, or weapons, and restrict advertising for adult products, alcohol, and gambling. But, that’s reconciled with the fact that, despite not being actual platforms for online sales, Facebook and Instagram are often used as bulletin boards by private users advertising products or services, where the sale and transfer of goods can be carried out somewhere else. That’s more nebulous, and it doesn’t fall under Facebook’s advertising policy.
So, as for that bulletin board material, which some might use to facilitate the sale of something like firearms (the example that Facebook seems most concerned with here), there are going to be some new policies put in place. Since censorship and restriction on speech are understandably touchy subjects, most of Facebook’s new policies revolve around information awareness. If Facebook sees someone trying to sell restricted or highly regulated goods, they will send them a message reminding them of their responsibilities under the law, and to remind potential customers about their responsibilities, as well. Using language that skirts the law (making a post about a private gun sale and saying that no background checks will be done) will not be allowed at all.
Ultimately, this is Facebook getting its ducks in a row, and making sure that the liability for illegal action falls squarely on the user, not onto Facebook itself for negligence. None of the new policies will actually prevent anyone from breaking the law – there are plenty of nudge nudge wink wink ways to say something without explicitly saying it. This is just Facebook’s way of letting you know that you’d better play it straight, because if things go poorly for you, Facebook’s not the one that’s going to be taking the heat.