Recent Facebook posts have touted huge online arms bazaars — offering weapons that include heavy machine guns and grenades — and have been appearing in regions of the Middle East where the Islamic State has its strongest presence.
The solicitations violate Facebook’s policies, Monika Bickert, a former federal prosecutor who is responsible for developing and enforcing the company’s content standards, told The New York Times.
The company, based in Menlo Park, Calif., has forbidden the facilitation of private sales of firearms and other weapons since January, she said.
"When Facebook began, there was no way to really engage in commerce on Facebook," Bickert told the Times.
In the last year, however, the company has allowed users to process payments through Facebook's Messenger service, while adding other increase sales.
"Since we were offering features like that, we thought we wanted to make clear that this is not a site that wants to facilitate the private sales of firearms," she said.
The Times provided Facebook this week with seven examples of suspicious groups selling heavy weaponry through the site. Six were closed.
The report's findings were based on a study by Armament Research Services, a private consulting firm that monitors arms trafficking on social media in Libya. The Times also contributed reporting on similar in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
ARS' efforts documented 97 attempts at unregulated transfers of missiles, heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, rockets and anti-matériel rifles, used to disable military equipment, through several Libyan Facebook groups since September 2014, according to the Times.
In one instance, a seller in Tripoli, Libya, offered components of a man-portable antiaircraft defense system, or Manpads, in a closed Facebook group, the Times reports.
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