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By Sky News US Team

Facebook has said it is cracking down on online gun sales after concerns the technology giant was increasingly being used by people to get around background checks.

The development also comes after a wave of US mass shootings as President Barack Obama urged social media companies to clamp down on firearms’ purchases.

Gun control groups have argued Facebook and other online sites are often used by unlicensed sellers and buyers who are not legally eligible to get guns.

Under the new rules, private individuals worldwide will be banned from advertising or selling firearms on Facebook and its photo-sharing service Instagram.

Facebook has been used to advertise guns for sale

It updates Facebook’s regulated goods policy, introduced in March 2014, that banned people from selling marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs.

That same year, there had been some firearms restrictions, with Facebook saying it would block children from seeing posts that advertised guns.

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But the social network did not ban private sales at that time.

Licensed firearms retailers can still promote their businesses on Facebook, but they are not allowed to accept orders or make sales on the site.

Facebook “was unfortunately and unwittingly serving as an online platform for dangerous people to get guns,” said Shannon Watts of campaign group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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She said her organisation has found numerous cases of criminals and children who were able to buy guns on the site, including two cases in which the purchasers used the guns to kill others.

She welcomed the technology giant’s new policy, saying: “Moms are grateful for the leadership shown by Facebook today.

“Our continued relationship with Facebook resulted in today’s even stronger stance, which will prevent dangerous people from getting guns and save American lives.”

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Monika Bickert, the internet company’s head of product policy, said: “Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another.

“We are continuing to develop, test, and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”

The National Rifle Association, a lobbying group opposed to limits on US gun ownership rights, did not immediately comment.