Pittsburgh Tactical Firearm's logo seen on Facebook before the page was shut down. (Image: Facebook)
When TheBlaze first spoke with Erik Lowry, he was running a contest on Facebook to give away an AR-15. Now, a couple months later, the fan page for Pittsburgh Tactical Firearm, Lowry's store, has been shut down, along with a secondary page he established to replace it a couple days ago.
"I still don't know what's going on," Lowry told TheBlaze in a phone interview Sunday afternoon.
Lowry said three days ago he awoke to calls and emails from fans asking where his Facebook page had gone. Lowry used the page to keep Pittsburgh Tactical Firearm's more than 27,000 followers updated on store and stock information and Second Amendment news.
Without any notice from Facebook, Lowry said his page was shut down. In the days following, he said he has sent more than 100 messages through appeals still without a response.
The only way Lowry has been able to figure out why his page -- and those of other gun stores -- might have been shut down a few days ago is from the report of the media start-up Vocativ, which published a story about firearm giveaways being run by some gun stores on Facebook. In its article, Vocativ spoke with Facebook, which was unaware of the pages content at first and said they violated terms, which would result in them being shut down:
When Vocativ contacted Facebook, a company spokesman was unaware that the giveaways existed. When alerted to the existing posts, he said the pages are considered ads and thereby do violate the social network’s terms. “Our Ad Guidelines prohibit promotion of the sale of weapons and the Ad Guidelines apply to Pages with commercial content on them,” he said. “Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.” He said the company would review the posts. “Most of these should be removed per our terms,” he added. (Facebook has both ad guidelines and promotions guidelines.)
As for promotions, like a giveaway, Facebook in its guidelines states these "must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App."
Facebook's ad guidelines state, "Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives."
A representative from Facebook confirmed that violating this policy was why the Facebook pages were shut down but declined to comment further.
Lowry said no transactions of firearm or ammunition sales were ever conducted through the site. He would alert fans to when ammunition might be in stock in the store or of other promotions occurring at Pittsburgh Tactical Firearm. He also noted that the winner of the giveaways, which he were running, were legally vetted as being allowed to own a firearm before the weapon was ever given to them.
"There are no guidelines that says you can't giveaway guns," Lowry said.
Here's a screenshot of one of the giveaways that occurred in February:
He noted their original giveaway was not done through an app and generated "likes," but said he revised the contest to fit with Facebook's "promotion" terms later.
As for issuing information on Facebook about firearms and ammunition in his store, Lowry said he didn't see an issue with it.
Watch Lowry's interview with the a local news station:
Other, larger firearm manufacturers and stores with Facebook pages remaining active, which according to Lowry shows the "hypocrisy of Facebook." Lowry and a few other pages that were shut down after being brought to Facebook's attention by Vocativ, started secondary pages afterward. All of them, except Lowry's, remain active and he's still not sure why.
Lowry said the page being shut down has resulted in his company losing 40 percent of his business. He estimated not being able to update fans is resulting in a loss of $500 to $1,000 per day. He also noted that he had spent about $10,000 in formal advertising through Facebook before.
If Facebook had contacted him and explained how his page was in violation, he said he would have at least had the opportunity to make changes to bring it into compliance.
"I am very adamant about following rules. I'm not the type of person who will stick it to the man," Lowry said. "[It] at least should have been a courtesy for someone to contact us and say 'this is why we did it.'
"The lack of communication is so, incredibly frustrating."
Lowry said he will be contacting the NRA Monday for legal council and is considering seeking other legal advise.
"This kind of censorship is unconstitutional," Lowry said.
For now, Lowry is using another page -- Miss Pittsburgh Tactical -- as a place to keep followers informed about the original, shutdown page.
This post has been updated to include information from Facebook.