Sunday, March 9, 2014

Facebook to Delete Posts for Unlawful Gun Sales

Rabin Man Shakya

I am not a gun and crime analyst, but it does not take a genius to understand that gun violence and crime rates in the US is one of the highest in the world. The US takes the first ranking in the prison population in the world followed only by Russia.

Nearly 50 percent of American black men, 40 percent of white men and 44 percent of Latinos are arrested at least once on non-traffic-related crimes by the time they turn 23, according to a new study. 14,612 intentional homicides were committed in 2012 in the United States, a country with the population of 316 million.

No wonder, the evening news of the American television channels are full of news related to crimes and violence. I have been to many countries and I must admit that law enforcement in the US is one of the best in the world. There is no doubt had there not been the effective policing network, there could have been much more dramatic surge in the crime rates in the US.

A number of Nepalese have been the victims of homicide culture of the US. The recent murder of Samanata Shrestha, (daughter of Rajshree Shrestha, who happened to work together with me in The Rising Nepal in 1990s) a brilliant would-be doctor, in Virginia is just a tip of the iceberg. Questions arise why one after another gun violence incidents are not opening the eyes of the US government and the Congress?

Against such disappointing background lurks the future role of the social media vis-a-vis the gun control issue. Meanwhile, according to a news story in the New York Times, "Under pressure from law enforcement and advocacy groups, Facebook took steps Wednesday to regulate gun sales on its sites as well as its photo-sharing site Instagram" (The New York Times, March 6, 2014).

According to the news reports, Facebook is one of the world's largest marketplaces for guns. A Double Star AR-15 is offered for $650 and a raspberry-colored Taurus pistol can be purchased for as little as $239.95

Facebook's measures are indeed highly commendable and according to the news reports the steps will be enforced over  the next few weeks at the world's largest social network, with 1.3 billion active users. "We will remove reported posts that explicitly indicate a specific attempt to evade or help others evade the law," Facebook said in a statement.

Facebook's steps demonstrate increasing awareness among the activists that the social media is being used to make transactions of the banned weapons, evade restrictions on interstate sales, and put guns in the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers, the mentally ill or others barred under US law from obtaining firearms.

It is to be noted that Google Plus and Craigslist have already prohibited gun sales, legal or illegal. Increased public awareness against gun violence, along with better law enforcement and policies to contain mass shootings and homicides, may be helping to reduce gun violence cases, despite recent headlines of individual and mass shootings.

At a time, when tech titans like Google and Facebook are changing the perception, perspectives, lifestyle of the people across the world, activists should accord more emphasis, should place more priority in using social media to agitate against the free flow of guns which is one of the main causes  of homicides, mass shootings and other crimes.

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