Iraqi soldiers gather during a military operation on the outskirts of Makhmour, south of Mosul, Iraq, March 25, 2016. (Representational picture)REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

Facebook is in the news for all the wrong reasons. It has emerged that the social media giant, which has 1.6 billion monthly visitors, has been used in the Middle East as a platform to sell destructive weapons ranging from handguns to missiles.

A study by private consultancy Armament Research Services (ARES) has exposed arms trafficking on social media in Libya, and the New York Times also reported similar activities taking place in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Facebook's policy doesn't allow members to use forums to sell weapons. It banned sales of guns earlier this year to stop illegal activities. The company's Messenger service may have facilitated users to make payments easier in such activities, but it has made it clear using the forum to sell eweapons won't be tolerated.

According to the study by ARES, several destructive weapons like heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, anti-tank guided weapons, man-portable air-defence systems, grenade launchers, anti-materiel rifles, shoulder-fired recoilless weapons, guided missiles and rocket launchers are up for sale in Libya. It stated that most of the information exchanged happens in closed and secret groups, where non-members cannot access the content in them. 

The New York Times reported the social media giant pulled down six of the seven suspicious groups brought to its notice. The report went on to say weapons put on sale include those distributed to security forces and their proxies in the Middle East by the United States. 

Facebook, being a social media site, doesn't restrict users from posting content. However, it relies on users to report posts they think are in bad taste, and illegal activities like sale of weapons, before action is initiated. When a post is reported, employees of the company review it. Content that is offensive and doesn't adhere to its policy is pulled down.

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