Two gun store owners had their Facebook accounts banned, and then swiftly reinstated following the shootings in Orlando, Florida last weekend. One of them is a paying customer who has spent at least $50,000 on Facebook ads.
Andy Hallinan, of Florida Gun Supply, was suspended earlier in the week for the alleged “unauthorized sale of guns or explosives.” Yet Hallinan told Breitbart Tech that his Facebook page was not used to sell anything, and the only advertisements he posted were for gun training classes.
Furthermore, Facebook’s ban on gun sales is intended to prevent private sales of guns, not sales from legitimate, federally-licensed stores.
Prior to his suspension, Hallinan estimates that he spent at least $50,000 on Facebook advertising, and $200,000 overall on developing his Facebook following over the years.
Hallinan also used his Facebook to comment on political issues. His last post before his suspension was about a candlelit vigil for victims of the Orlando shooting.
His personal account received a 30-day ban for linking to a news article about his gun store. He was later reinstated, with Facebook telling CBS that the suspension was due to a mistake caused by its algorithms.
Steve Champion, of American Guns & Pawn had a similar story. They were initially suspended — again, as above, for the ostensible reason of “unauthorized sale of guns or explosives” — and then reinstated without apology.
Both Hallinan and Champion believe that they were only reinstated due to public outcry. In the wake of his suspension, Hallinan set up a website, facebookgunban.com, to rally supporters. The page let people directly appeal his ban, and over 1,100 did so almost immediately. Soon after, Hallinan was reinstated.
The store owners and their supporters also posted videos about the bans on Facebook, drawing tens of thousands of views.
In his interview, Steve Champion suggests that the suspensions were a “direct response to what happened in the shooting the other day. Someone’s trying to sabotage the gun shops by reporting them for some reason… But we’re not doing anything wrong.”
Champion also complained about the difficulty of the Facebook appeals process. “I can’t get a hold of anybody from Facebook. There’s no phone number, there’s no website. You can send a question in, and they might get back to you several months from now…”
In the second video, Andy Hallinan of Florida Gun Supply said that despite Facebook’s liberal leanings, the platform was important to their business. “We all know that Facebook is very liberal… But we all know that Facebook is a great way to connect with like-minded people. We want to make sure that we sell guns to people who are going to do good in the community with them, and who are going to protect their families.”
Hallinan also explained that his personal account had received a 30-day block after he posted a link to an article drawing a link between Islam and the Orlando shootings.
There have been a number of irregular suspensions on Facebook following the Orlando shootings. The most high-profile was the suspension of Islam critic Pamela Geller and her 50,000-strong group, Stop Islamization Of America. As with the suspension of the gun store owners, the temporary ban caused a significant social media and media backlash, leading to the reinstatement of Geller and her group less than a day later.
Facebook has also come under fire for its liberal bias, with leaks from employees at the site’s “Trending News” team sparking a huge scandal last month by detailing how the site discriminated against news topics of interest to conservatives. In the wake of the scandal, Facebook launched an internal investigations into allegations of pro-liberal bias — and found themselves innocent.