According to a recent report, terrorist groups looking for military equipment can get all the supplies they need via private groups on Facebook. In the Middle East, online arms bazaars have a wide range of goods on offer from handguns to guided missiles and antiaircraft weaponry.
Reportedly, the middlemen sell military weapons that were left by the U.S. in the Middle East in the wake of various armed conflicts. Experts noticed that private groups selling weapons have spurred in countries where there is a strong Islamic State presence.
Though Facebook has recently set in place a ban on arms trafficking, the online bazaars continue to flourish.
Arms dealers post photos with the weapons they plan to sale on private groups. The report shows that heavy machinery is also on display including anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems and heat-tracking missiles.
In Libya, there have been nearly 100 attempts to sell military grade weapons via Facebook since 2014. According to a separate report, Libyan extremists have even tried to monetize a mobile antiaircraft defense system called a SA-7 gripstock last year. SA-7s can be used to take down helicopters and commercial airplanes, experts said.
Experts also noted that missiles and machine guns are not very popular on Facebook since customers prefer infantry weapons and handguns. The most popular assault rifles are Kalashnikovs and FAL rifles, the latter especially in Libya.
Early this year, Facebook banned the private sale of firearms on its platform, but it has relied on users’ reports to spot offenders ever since. Despite the ban, there are online arms bazaars not only in Libya, but also in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.
Facebook declined to provide details on offenders and the scale of arms trafficking on the site. But some users report that arms trafficking groups update their inventory on a daily basis. According to the separate report, on Libyan pages there are between 200 and 300 new arms-sales posts every month.
If they stumble upon one such page, users are asked to notify the company on any violations via Report buttons. Next, a special team analyzes the reports and takes the appropriate measures to ‘keep people safe.’
According to the report, in each Middle East region affected by armed conflicts people seek specific weapons. For instance, in Libya, the population usually buys handguns for self-defense as the country has high crime rates.
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