With more than one billion registered users, Facebook is the uncontested king of social media. Every major brand, individual and cause has a Facebook page—and, chances are, your grandma does, too. But a recent report suggests that this titan of industry may not be a friend to users who are interested in hunting and firearms. A coalition of firearm-related organizations—including Concealed Nation, The Truth About Guns, Gun Owners of America, USA Carry and Alien Gear Holsters—claim that Facebook has been actively suppressing their posts.
According to the release issued on Monday, June 6, the coalition’s research suggests that the suppression began at the end of February 2016.
"We have over 700,000 likes on our Facebook page and tremendous reader response to our material," said Brandon Curtis, publisher of Concealed Nation. "We didn't change a thing about the way we post. In February our Facebook traffic fell off a cliff. It sank by nearly 50 percent in that first month."
Curtis further explained that he reached out to Facebook regarding the steep decline in traffic. The organization told him that yes, it had limited distribution to user News Feeds, but claimed it was because Concealed Nation’s posts had “too much commercial content.”
Luke McCoy, founder of USA Carry, and Rob Russo, social media manager for Alien Gear Holsters, also shared tales of their run-ins with Facebook. McCoy said that a Facebook account manager admitted to him that his post reach had been penalized—allegedly because users had complained that USA Carry’s content was overly promotional. Russo says that Alien Gear’s reach has steadily dropped despite his brand’s more than one million followers.
After collecting stories from a number of peers, Curtis and Concealed Nation contacted Facebook again and noted that his posts were entirely editorial in nature. The Facebook account manager then told him that users had flagged the pages, and the conversation stalled.
To date, the release states that Facebook has failed to remove the penalties imposed on the sites’ pages. Its representatives did offer a free seminar on how to increase traffic with the penalties in place, however. Though I can’t speak for what Facebook espouses in the seminar, I will note that the company often offers to “boost” the performance of pages’ posts—for a price.
Whether or not Facebook is truly suppressing firearms-related news on principle—and to what extent—remains in question. That said, this is not the first occasion upon which the Menlo Park, California-based company has been accused of suppressing content that didn’t fit within a certain political spectrum. In early May 2016, reports surfaced—citing former contractors—alleging that Facebook actively suppressed “conservative” news and views.
Going forward, the existing coalition of firearm-industry brands is trying to determine the extent of the problem—including how much, if any, revenue they’ve lost due to the drop in Facebook-related traffic. They are asking that owners of gun-related Facebook pages check their Facebook reach and report findings at FBGunFail.com.