Would you be surprised if you saw an ad for a gun on Facebook? I'm not sure I would -- I mean, I've seen a thousand ads for bogus weight loss products that are falsely endorsed by Dr. Oz, so I pretty much assumed anything could go -- but apparently it's against company policy to advertise weapons on the social media site. The specific language from Facebook reads, "Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives."

So you'd think if someone snuck a forbidden ad past the regulatory guidelines, Facebook would just delete the ad, right? Well, in the case of several gun sellers who ran a sweepstakes for an AR-15 rifle recently, Facebook didn't just kill the promotion -- they killed the company pages altogether. In one case, a business lost more than 27,000 hard-won followers with this single punitive action by Facebook.

A while ago, a number of online gun sellers -- including Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms, AR15news.com, 556 Tactical LLC, and Gun Sweeps -- participated in a sweepstakes program that promoted AR-15 giveaways via Facebook. Facebook had no problem with this until they were contacted by the media start-up Vocativ for a story about the giveaways, at which point a company spokesman said 1) they hadn't known about the giveaways, and 2) the giveaways violated the social network's terms and that the ads would likely be shut down.

Instead, the actual company pages were terminated. Erik Lowry from Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms said he'd received no notice about the decision, and in fact didn't even realize what was going on until some of his 27,000 fans began emailing him to ask what had happened to the page.

He says he's since sent more than 100 messages through appeals, but Facebook hasn't responded.

Without hearing Facebook's side of things, it's hard to know why they made this decision -- but I'd guess they've decided to classify a gun seller's page as "promoting the sale or use of weapons." It's a gray area for sure, though, because no sales transactions are conducted through the pages themselves, and how can you definitively say that a page listing inventory and promotions encourages the use of a particular product?

In my opinion, the really crappy thing here isn't that Facebook objects to the content, it's that they issued exactly zero warning before deleting the pages. Businesses work hard to build up their fans, and sometimes they spend a lot of money to do so. Erasing someone's entire brand presence without any sort of notification is a pretty drastic move.

Of course, Facebook makes the rules and if they don't want anything to do with weapons and explosives, there's probably not much Pittsburgh Tactical can do about it. I guess knife pages are okay, though. Oh, and AR-15 accessories, tactical weapons, gun & ammo sales, katana swords, fireworks, and medieval torture methods.

What do you think of Facebook's decision to shut down these gun sellers' pages?


Image via Simonov/Flickr