We know that Facebook has been censoring conservative viewpoints and pro-Second Amendment voices and posts for quite some time, and now (Facebook-owned) Instagram is getting in on the action.
Firearms Policy Coalition, a Second Amendment advocacy non-profit, sells t-shirts promoting the Second Amendment through their FPCGear.com website. On Tuesday, the same day FPC filed a lawsuit against a Nevada school district on behalf of a student who was suspended for wearing an FPCGear shirt to school, Instagram denied the group’s application to sell the t-shirts on the platform (through their @gunpolicy Instagram account, which has been active for over three years).
So @instagram banned us from selling pro-gun rights, pro-free speech tee shirts at https://t.co/DmvNDkJc8b on their platform. Received the notice from @Shopify minutes ago. Maybe they just need to bake our cake? pic.twitter.com/E0jHASmmhU
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) April 25, 2018
The denial referenced Instagram’s (and Facebook’s) commerce policy, which states, in part:
To become approved for shopping on Instagram, your business and account setup must fulfill the following requirements:
- Your business must be located in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain or Brazil
- Your Instagram account must be converted into a business profile
- Your business profile must be connected to a Facebook catalog. This can be created and managed on Business Manager, through Shopify or BigCommerce platforms or directly on your business’s Page on Facebook.
According to Brandon Combs, Executive Director of Firearms Policy Coalition, FPCGear.com complies with all of the requirements. They have even sold shirts through Shopify on the group’s Facebook page in the recent past but had taken the storefront down to revamp the FPCGear.com website.
Reading through the merchant agreement (which is housed on Facebook’s site), there is nothing in it that applies to the type of product sold. The commerce policies (also housed on Facebook) state that products must comply with “Community Standards” and that “ammunition, explosives and weapons” is a common area of confusion.
They attempt to clarify the policy, which states, “Posts may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives” by saying the only example of an allowed post is one promoting safety training or licenses for legal weapons. This clarification appears to state that a product that promoted the use of a firearm would be prohibited.
Obviously no one wants people selling products promoting the use of a gun for murder or terrorism. The possession and use of guns is a constitutionally-protected right, though, and we don’t see Instagram or Facebook prohibiting T-shirts promoting the exercise of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press, do we?
Firearms Policy Coalition told RedState they would be appealing the decision today. We will be following developments in the story.