US senators have written to a number of leading tech companies requesting they "take immediate steps or limit access to 3D gun printing material" which have been released online in recent weeks. The companies targeted by the request included Twitter, Facebook, Google, Craigslist, Yahoo, Microsoft and Reddit.
The gun blueprints, which are in the form of Computer Aided Design (CAD) files, where designed and distributed by a company called Defense Distributed. In July 2018, the legal case it had with the US State Department was settled allowing the company to release the blueprints online. However, the judgment immediately triggered a number of lawsuits from state attorney generals across the US, causing a Seattle judge to again temporarily block the further publication of the blueprints.
While Defense Distributed took down the plans, in the brief time it had been released, it was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, meaning the information is now out there for anyone so inclined to find it.
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The two primary worries senators have with regards to 3D printed guns are that they can theoretically be printed by anybody with access to the internet and 3D printer; and secondly, because of the materials used to make 3D printed guns, they are harder to spot with traditional metal detectors or other scanners.
US senators, despite the absence of any explicit law allowing them to outright deem the 3D gun blueprints illegal, have been relying on the US tech industry's community standards to encourage them to implement a makeshift ban. The letter sent by the senators directly to Mark Zuckerberg even quotes Facebook's guidelines, "DO NOT POST…Content that attempts to sell, gift, exchange, or transfer firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, or explosives between private individuals".
Many of the companies have yet to comment on the controversy, but Facebook has already banned the blueprints from the platform. A spokesperson for the platform echoed the senator's letter, commenting: "Sharing material on how to manufacture firearms using 3D printers or CNC milling machines is not allowed under our Community Standards. In line with our policies, we are removing this content from Facebook."