Facebook and Amazon have completely censored access to a website that publishes 3-D-printed gun design blueprints, a gun rights group says.
According to Brandon Combs, president of the Firearms Policy Coalition, links to the website CodeIsFreeSpeech.com have been blocked on all Facebook platforms and Amazon is no longer hosting the site on its servers.
“It was humans involved with Amazon just like in Facebook. This is not an algorithm-based issue, they were making human policy decisions,” Combs told The Washington Free Beacon.
Combs was clear that the Facebook ban was extensive. When users attempt to share links to the website or to the gun blueprints, they receive error messages and the posts are not visible on their timelines.
“Facebook did not just block CodeIsFreeSpeech.com prospectively,” he said. “Facebook forced a company-wide (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram) takedown of content about and inclusive of CodeIsFreeSpeech.com. Facebook banned the URL throughout their products. I even tried to setup Facebook for Work. But even that platform banned discussion of CodeIsFreeSpeech.com. What we are experiencing is a complete ban on CodeIsFreeSpeech.com — not a ‘shadow ban,’ not a reduced newsfeed presence, but a complete ban.”
Combs sees the ban as a severe form of censorship, arguing that Facebook and Amazon’s actions have much deeper implications for freedom on the internet as a whole.
“There’s a lot of folks in tech that are troubled by what Facebook has done,” he said. “I mean outright banning a mention of CodeIsFreeSpeech.com is a pretty aggressive anti-speech move by them and I think internally they have some pretty tough questions to wrestle with here.
“If Amazon, Facebook, and Google are going to start censoring content that they think is optically problematic for them, then what’s the point of net neutrality if the edge layer, if the rule service providers that hold our data don’t let us see it anyway? They want net neutrality, but how about content neutrality at their level?”
Facebook reportedly refused to talk with Combs and the FPC about their appeals or address ways to possibly fix the issue.
A Facebook representative did briefly discuss the ban with The Free Beacon, simply stating, “Sharing instructions on how to manufacture firearms using 3D printers or CNC (computer numerical controlled) milling machines is not allowed under our Community Standards. In line with our policies, we are removing this content from Facebook.”
Facebook’s community standards ban “the purchase, sale, gifting, exchange, and transfer of firearms, including firearms parts or ammunition” between users of the platform, and Facebook has now apparently extended that ban to include 3-D-printed gun blueprints as well.
Combs told the New York Post, “Facebook is picking and choosing winners and losers in the marketplace of ideas.”
Despite such a strong example of speech being suppressed, Combs said that the ban has not been addressed by any government communication, and no action on the matter seems likely.
“We haven’t heard from the states and local governments either, and it’s kind of shocking that they talk about all of this stuff but they don’t really do anything about it when they have an opportunity,” Combs said. “They take an easy path to go after the Trump administration, maybe this is all part of their resistance narrative, but they could’ve said something about Code Is Free Speech and they haven’t yet.”
Combs said the FPC decided to publish the files because the group wanted to raise awareness of its First Amendment rights. “We wanted to make a bold statement that you can’t silence us as a whole, as a collective people that are interested in freedom,” he said.
Advocates for gun control believe that publishing 3-D-printable gun designs is dangerous because it will allow guns to be easily put into the hands of criminals, terrorists and others with ill intentions, but Combs argued that those kinds of people don’t even need the gun blueprints to cause harm.
“This is simply nothing new. ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ you can buy on Amazon, (the University of California at) Berkeley is hosting a copy of it. YouTube has a Vice video where they were making bombs from ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ and testing them out,” he said. “So, people’s hand-waving and wailing and gnashing is irrational and doesn’t change the realities of the world.
“People will do bad things because that’s what they do, and this doesn’t change that.”
Combs emphasized the fact that the group is going to continue publishing more gun-design files and information, and he hopes that others will continue to share the content, as it is well within their First Amendment right to do so.
“The future is we’re going to be publishing very soon a ton of additional files and information, and as soon as I get that done, it’s going to be live,” he said. “We don’t plan to stop and as long as people are willing to share protected speech, we’re going to empower that.”
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