Rifle (the town, not a gun) Facebook swap pages taken down
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
In another instance of Rifle’s name getting attention, Shooter’s Grill, where servers openly carry loaded guns, became internationally famous after this story.
RIFLE — The city is not bashful when it comes to embracing the firearm for which it’s named. A rifle appears in the city’s logo and adorns the side of police cruisers. Names of local roads include Shotgun Drive as well as Remington and Winchester streets.
But the name may have shot down local Facebook swap pages.
Page administrators recently received a message from Facebook informing them that several Rifle-area pages had been disabled because Facebook does not “allow groups that facilitate buying and selling firearms or other regulated goods by unauthorized dealers.”
People elsewhere in the country see the incident as an example of gun opponents’ wholesale flagging of pages in response to Facebook’s community standards implemented earlier this year restricting the sale of firearms.
After receiving the message from Facebook, the admins proceeded to scrub the pages — which largely act as digital garage sales and community forums — for any posts possibly violating Facebook’s policy, but had slow success in getting the pages reactivated.
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The “Rifle, Parachute, Battlement Mesa buy and sell” page was briefly reactivated twice Monday after certain posts were removed; however, the page was deactivated once again later in the day.
The page was reactivated again after “Rifle” was deleted from the group name, said Kimberly Bruner, one the page administrators.
Similarly, the “Rifle Area On Line Yard Sale,” which has around 4,495 members, also was disabled, with Facebook citing the same reason, according to Miriam Katz, an administrator for the yard sale page and several others.
In a statement, an unnamed Facebook representative said the decision was a mistake.
“The page was removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”
Both pages were reactivated Tuesday, and Rifle has since been restored to the “Rifle, Parachute, Battlement Mesa buy and sell” group name.
Katz and others believe inclusion of the city’s name is likely the reason the pages were flagged in the first place.
“We are thinking that’s one of the main things they’re having a problem with is that it can’t say Rifle in the name,” she said.
In late January, Facebook announced it was prohibiting the private sale of firearms and ammunition as part of its community standards, which attempt to define what is and isn’t appropriate for sharing on Facebook.
The list of prohibited items now extends to paintball markers, air guns and others, as well as rifles, handguns and more.
The list includes a message at the end stating: “We understand that some of these items may not be legally regulated everywhere people use Facebook. In order to enforce our policies as fairly and consistently as possible, we use one broad set of standards for the entire Facebook community.”
Facebook relies on its many users to flag content believed to violate its community standards.
When content is reported, members of a team at Facebook review the content, usually within 24 hours, and render a decision.
Administrators of gun-related Facebook pages say that the policy leads to trolling from some people, labeled as anti-gun, who flag groups and pages that turn up in search results for words like Remington or rifle.
Mary Clark Ziegelhoffer helps groups and pages that have been shut down despite adhering to the standards to get reactivated.
According to Ziegelhoffer, she is working with more than 1,000 groups, pages and administrators, in the U.S. and United Kingdom, to regain access. She contacted a Facebook official Monday night about the Rifle pages.
She clarified her efforts are to help groups deactivated as part of a “false reporting campaign“ — not to restore firearm sale groups that do not comply with the Facebook terms.
TERMS OF SERVICE ABUSED?
In a conversation with the Post Independent via Facebook, a group of page administrators and owners shared their experiences with having their gun-related group or page shut down, even though they said they followed Facebook’s terms of service.
“Basically, there is a concerted effort by a group of anti-2nd amendment people which are making it their duty to report gun groups and pages on Facebook,” wrote Charles Hawking, one of the administrators involved in the conversation. “The problem is these new Terms of Service are being abused by people who want to shut groups and pages down. A lot of the people falling victim to this abuse are gun enthusiast groups and legitimate (federal firearms license) gun shop pages which in turn lose out on a lot of business considering they do a lot of their marketing via social media.”
The spokesperson for Facebook did not say what role, if any, Rifle played in the flagging and temporary removal of the local pages.
Other pages and groups with the word Rifle in the name operated without interruption while the other two pages were disabled — an occurrence that drew comments ranging from the comical side to pure outrage.
“We need to sign a petition and sue Facebook over this. It’s (ridiculous) plus they are taking away our freedom of speech and Second Amendment rights,” commented one person.
“RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE RIFLE. OK GUESS I’LL SEE US ALL LATER. I WILL PROBABLY BE SHUT DOWN NOW,” another person wrote.
While people continue to hold different feelings about Facebook’s broader policy, Katz said the bigger issue is pages that “are important to a lot of people” are being unfairly disabled.
“I know a lot of community members depend on this,” she said of the pages.
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