Late last week, a Pennsylvania-based gun store had its Facebook page suddenly deactivated after administrators at the social media giant reportedly learned the shop’s proprietor was using the store’s Facebook presence as a way to raffle off semiautomatic firearms.
In talking with The Blaze.com, Erik Lowry, who owns Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, explained the situation, although even he is a little unclear about why exactly his store’s fan page, which had over 27,000 friends, was shut down.
On Sunday, he had plans to run a huge giveaway that would have included an AR-15 as the main prize, but close to the eve of the giveaway he awoke to calls and emails from concerned customers wondering what happen to PTF’s Facebook page.
According to Lowry, there was no warning, no explanation, just a simple message, “Your page has been unpublished and it cannot be published again.”
Following news of the shut down, Lowry desperately tried to contact FB admin, sending them over 100 messages through an appeals process but all that reaching out was to no avail.
“I still don’t know what’s going on,” Lowry told The Blaze over the phone on Sunday.
Clues for why FB opted to shut down PTF’s fan page without warning come via a news forum called Vocativ, which recently ran a story on gun giveaways within the FB community. A FB spokesman first admitted that the company was unaware of the firearm-related raffles and then said they violated policy.
“Our Ad Guidelines prohibit promotion of the sale of weapons and the Ad Guidelines apply to Pages with commercial content on them,” the Facebook spokesman told Vocativ. “Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.”
“Most of these should be removed per our terms,” he added
Even though Lowry may have been in violation of the terms, he still believes that he should have been given a warning and a chance to make things right.
“I am very adamant about following rules. I’m not the type of person who will stick it to the man,” Lowry said. “[It] at least should have been a courtesy for someone to contact us and say ‘this is why we did it.’
“The lack of communication is so, incredibly frustrating.”
Like many businesses these days, social media plays a critical role in PTF’s ability to communicate with customers. Lowry said that since his FB page was shut down, his business is losing upwards of $500 to $1,000 per day.
Moving forward, Lowry plans on contacting the NRA to see if there is any legal recourse or support the nation’s gun lobby can provide.
“This kind of censorship is unconstitutional,” Lowry complained.
In the meantime, one can visit PTR on Facebook or check for updates via its sister site ‘Miss Pittsburgh Tactical.’
Also, Voactiv updated their article with the following:
In response to Vocativ’s investigation of gun sweepstakes on Facebook, the social network has taken down the pages of at least five groups that have been giving away free firearms on the site.
In the process of reporting the story, Vocativ provided Facebook with several examples of active gun giveaways on their platform. On Friday, Facebook explained that the sweepstakes violate the company’s advertising guidelines and that the pages in question had been removed. “Facebook strives to create a safe and trusted environment for everyone that uses our service,” the company told Vocativ in a statement.
So, what are your thoughts? Should FB have given PTF a heads up before shutting down the fan page? Or did FB do the right thing? Also, what do you make of Voactiv’s investigation?