A new report shows that Facebook is being used by arms dealers and suppliers to display, advertise and sell their goods in countries.
The so called online “arms bazaars” are mostly set up as a private member only Facebook group and are able to sell everything ranging from handguns and grenades to heavy machine guns and guided missiles. Some of the U.S distributed weapons have made their way onto the social network, reports the New York Times.
In Libya alone, at least 97 documented attempts and cases of unregulated missile transfer, grenade launchers, rockets and various rifles since 2014 through these various Facebook groups. Allegations are also prevalent that some of the resold weapons include components from an anti aircraft defense system, were looted from the Libyan state custody after Col Muammar Gaddafi’s reign in 2011.
The same thing happened in Syria, where U.S provided weapons to rebels have again made their way to the social media network. A good example is of one Facebook user who submitted a WhatsApp number and was able to sell a wire guarded anti-tank missile system of the same type the U.S has delivered. When contacted the reseller claimed he could not remember the price and had already sold the launcher.
This practice of selling weapons violates the policies of the company which were recently put in January. The network added more e-commerce features to Messenger; Facebook still reiterates that it does not want to facilitate the private sales of firearms. However the site relies heavily on users reporting violations to its Community Operations team so they can take action.
Black market arms trade has always been there, but Facebook is a much better selling point for the traders because of the image view and display of catalogues available. Overall, 6000 trades have been made as indicated in the data given in the Middle East alone. However some analysts claim the figure might be higher than that.
Facebook has acted upon the news since it received the report as six of the seven reported groups have already been shut down.