It would appear that Facebook Groups is being used for something more than just organizing fandoms or gathering high school classmates together. Instead, a special report from The New York Times claims that Facebook Groups is serving a more sinister purpose – as a place for people to shop for weapons in the Middle East.
Naturally, this is against Facebook’s terms and conditions, but people from Middle Eastern nations such as Iraq and Syria are flocking to these illegal, ersatz storefronts to buy high-powered, rare weapons typically used by terrorists. And, as the Times puts it, these bazaars are available in countries and regions where the Islamic State has “its strongest presence.” Six of the seven Facebook Groups the New York Times reported to Facebook were recently shut down, the publication added.
However, there is still one group that remains active, though it doesn’t allow weapon sales, just posting of photos and discussions about weapons. Still, a report from Armament Research Services cited by the Times does show that these online weapons bazaars are a thing, as Facebook’s features make it easier to accept payments via the service, thus facilitating the sales of heavy machine guns, and even missiles and rockets. Reports also add that some of these bazaars’ top customers are indeed those with ties to terrorist and militant groups.
Meanwhile, Facebook has stressed that the company does not at all condone the sales of weapons on its site, focusing on a policy change it made in January.
“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,” said Facebook head of global policy Monika Bickert in the Times exclusive.