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Reddit removes several firearms-related forums

The popular news-sharing and discussion site bans transactions involving "illicit or strictly controlled" goods and services.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Reddit removed several popular forums related to firearms on Wednesday as part of an update to the company's content policies that prohibit transactions involving some goods and services.

The policy affected subreddits that discussed firearms, ammunition, explosives, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, stolen goods, personal information, paid services involving physical sexual contact and falsified documents. With the move, Reddit joins other high-profile companies that are responding to growing calls for gun control after a rash of mass shootings.

"As of March 21, 2018, we have made a new addition to our content policy forbidding transactions for certain classes of goods and services," Reddit said in a statement. "Moving forward, we are prohibiting transactions that are either illicit or strictly controlled. Communities focused on such transactions and users who attempt to conduct them will be banned from the site."

For years since its founding in 2005, the site was a free-wheeling, nearly anything-goes collection of Internet forums with people discussing their struggles with cancer, swapping theories about "Star Wars" and debating politics. But as Reddit has grown in popularity, it's recognized a responsibility to clamp down on hate groups, prostitution and other illegal activity.

Subreddits banned from the site under the new policy include r/GunDeals, r/GunsForSale and r/AKMarketplace. 

The policy changes sparked a lively discussion, especially among users of the GunDeals subreddit, which some users said wasn't a marketplace for firearms but rather a collection of links to stores.

"It's ridiculous that you're lumping gundeals in with other subs that facilitated illegal activities," one user wrote. "Gundeals at no time ever violated or attempted to skirt any laws; everything was 100% in compliance with federal and local laws."

Reddit responded to that criticism by pointing out the new policy impacts groups where transactions are conducted as well as ones that facilitate transactions.

"Because this policy forbids facilitating the transactions, it impacts communities that are dedicated to connecting buyers and sellers," Reddit said.

The NRA, the nation's most powerful gun rights group, has repeatedly dismissed calls for greater control that arose after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead. Meanwhile, a number of brands have responded to social media campaigns by announcing an end to special discounts for NRA members, including Delta Air Lines, Hertz and REI.

The NRA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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