Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been called out for allowing users to advertise gun modifiers.
These developments come as a police investigator in Garland, Texas, contacted the federal counterparts at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) after coming across an Instagram user who had posted a picture of 16 “Glock switches” for sale in the past few years.
— Forbes (@Forbes) June 29, 2023
When installed onto a Glock, these small, Lego-sized devices (gun modifiers) quickly transform an ordinary handgun into a fully automatic weapon that can spray dozens of bullets in seconds, faster than even typical military-issued firearms.
According to the ATF, whether these devices are attached to a weapon or not, the switches are illegal as they are “classified as machine guns under federal law.
Increasing Availability of Gun Modifiers
In the past years, law enforcement officers and prosecutors have observed an alarming trend which includes an escalated number of illegal switches, leading to an increase in these dangerous devices.
In 2022, an online investigative journalism website, VICE News and the Trace embarked on discovering gun violence and firearms in the industry. Their investigation found that federal prosecutions involving such devices jumped from 10 to 83 between 2017 and 2021.
According to experts, Glock switches” and “auto sear” seizures are on the rise, but despite being illegal, buying them is just a search away. However, when the Forbes team contacted Meta informing the company of two Facebook groups that are openly selling Glock switches – located simply by searching for the phrase “Glock switch,’’ the groups were taken down.
‘’Following a review of the Facebook Groups and Instagram accounts flagged to us, we removed them for violating our Community Standards,” Ryan Daniels, a Meta spokesperson, emailed Forbes.
Other social media platforms, including Telegram and Snapchat, have asserted that selling weapons and other types of ‘’harmful content’’ are prohibited. However, if such scenarios happen, the platforms’ team quickly removes the content and takes action on accountable individuals, such as deleting their accounts.
The prosecutors and law enforcement have asserted that they intend to see technology companies conduct more mitigation of harms emanating from the sale of such devices.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia emphasized the need to make platforms responsible for what is posted on their sites. Speaking to Forbes he said :
‘’We need to make the platforms responsible. This is just another thing that my men and women have to face. The fact is, we are outgunned. Dealing with the criminal element, we are outgunned. My officers don’t have Glock switches.’’
Social Media Sites Staggering With Open Advertisement
Social media sites have long struggled to deal with open advertisements of firearms and related products. In 2016, Facebook banned gun and ammunition transactions on the site; however, users quickly figured out how to circumvent the ban.
On the other hand, Twitter officially banned the ‘’promotion of weapons and weapon accessories” worldwide in paid advertisements.
The gun modifiers are manufactured domestically, often via 3D printing, as in other instances, they are imported, most often from China or the Philippines.
David Chipman, who worked at the ATF for over 23 years, and now is on the board of directors at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group, has said that social media companies need to do more to detect such images and discussions proactively.
‘’I think they (social media platforms) are responsible for figuring out how to attack this issue. I would challenge them, in this case, to do more. They don’t want people getting shot up with devices bought on their platforms,’’ Chipman asserted.
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