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Facebook Launches New Age Restrictions After Criticism Over Guns

Stocks in this article: FB

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Facebook (FB - Get Report), responding to criticism over its perceived involvement in the sale of firearms, has decided to impose age restrictions on some promotional items on the over-billion member social network and its sister photo-sharing site, Instagram. Now, only Facebook and Instagram users over the age of 18 will have access to posts promoting sales of regulated items such as firearms.

Facebook said its change in policy was a response to criticism from users over the advertising of firearms sales on the social network, but that the decision will impact many other promotions and advertisements on the social network.

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Facebook added it will not allow any postings of regulated items that contain language that may help people evade the law. That specification is focused on the sale of firearms.

"[P]rivate sellers of firearms in the U.S. will not be permitted to specify "no background check required," nor can they offer to transact across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer," Facebook said.

The move comes after Facebook received heavy criticism from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, over its perceived involvement in illegal gun sales.

In announcing policy changes, Facebook said it worked with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Sandy Hook Promise, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action in building new policies surrounding the promotion of firearm sales on the social network.

"People sometimes use our free tools to discuss products that are regulated or controversial. In some cases they promote these products for sale or use, even though it's not possible to complete a sale on Facebook or Instagram," Facebook said. 

The Mark Zuckerberg-run company made a point on Wednesday to say that it's policy change won't just impact firearm sales.

"While we've recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms, this is one of many areas where we face a difficult challenge balancing individuals' desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere."

To gain a better balance, Facebook said on Wednesday that anytime it's alerted of a post promoting the private sale of a commonly regulated item such as a firearm, the company will send a reminder of relevant laws and regulations and will also limit access to that post to people over the age of 18.

Regulated items include firearms; however, Facebook didn't disclose other products that might be affected. Similar requirements will also extent to Facebook Page profiles.

Presently, Facebook does not permit advertising for illegal drugs, tobacco products, prescription pharmaceuticals, and weapons. The company also restricts advertising for products such as alcohol, adult products, and gaming. The company also said on Wednesday it has systems in place to review and remove advertising that violates our policies, is false, deceptive, or misleading.

Other changes announced on Wednesday include an in-app education on Instagram for those who search for sales or promotions of firearms.

"As always, we encourage people who see anything that violates our policies to report it to us using the tools found throughout our services. Facebook and Instagram will continue to remove content, and notify law enforcement where appropriate, when we are notified about things shared on our services that suggest a direct, credible risk to others' safety. We will also continue to strictly enforce our advertising policies."

Facebook shares were trading nearly 4% higher in Wednesday afternoon trading.

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-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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