The owner of a Jeannette-based weapons marketing internet site contends he and his company were improperly removed from two social media platforms and suggested his conservative, pro-gun politics were the cause, according to a lawsuit filed this week in Westmoreland County.
Armslist LLC and owner Jonathan Gibbon of Jeannette said in January 2020 both Facebook and Instagram closed off access to and removed his private and business accounts without explanation.
According to the lawsuit, Armslist and Gibbon contend there was no basis for those actions and no policies of Facebook or Instagram were violated.
“Armslist doesn’t sell or market guns. It’s a site that is similar to Craigslist, and it drives traffic to its site by making posts on social media. To do that, they make posts supporting the Second Amendment,” said Jay Carson, Armslist’s Cleveland-based attorney.
Gibbon, a lawyer from Jeannette, has owned Armslist since its inception in 2007. He, along with one of his employees, filed the lawsuit that demands Facebook and Instagram restore their accounts. No monetary damages are being sought in the lawsuit.
Neither Facebook nor Instagram responded to requests for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Gibbon, along with Armslist and Torquelist LLC, a sister company that serves as an internet vehicle parts marketing site, were cut off from the social media sites based solely on their politics and support of gun ownership rights.
“Armslist frequently posted commentary supportive of Second Amendment rights and critical of certain proposed gun control measures and the political figures supporting these measures,” the lawsuit states. “In addition, many Armslist posts called attention to the use of firearms in stopping and preventing crime, the significance of firearms in American history and culture and the Constitutional protections relating to firearm ownership.”
Facebook and Instagram targeted Gibbon, as well as Armslist marketing director Andrew Varney III of Pittsburgh, for their conservative and libertarian political views, according to the lawsuit.
As part of Armslist’s court filing, it referred to political pressure imposed on Facebook by members of Congress seeking to hold the social media company accountable for gun violence and illegal gun sales and challenged them to curb gun sale advertising on those sites.
Carson said Armslist’s lawsuit is based on claims the social media companies’ decision to cut off access to their sites violated Pennsylvania’s constitution that allows for public access to free speech.
Armslist, according to the court filing, has twice fended off lawsuits, in 2014 and 2018, that argued it was liable for injuries and deaths related to guns purchased illegally through the website.
Carson said Armslist’s site carries a disclaimer that instructs users to adhere to federal laws.The site, he said, only serves as a marketplace and does not actively participate in or directly profit from weapon sales.