Salesforce tells customers its software isn't for gun sales

In a controversial move, the software company tries to limit what its software can be used for. But is Salesforce a touch hypocritical?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Not Salesforce approved.

Screenshot by ZDNet

If you grew up, as I did, in a society where guns just weren't a thing, you'll likely find America's veneration of weaponry bizarre.

Dangerous, even.

Yet many in this country believe that good people must have guns -- really big guns -- so that bad people won't kill them.

It's bound, then, to be a touch tendentious when a software company informs its customers they can't use its wares to sell certain sorts of guns.

This, as The Washington Post reported, is precisely what Salesforce has chosen to do. The company recently changed its acceptable-use policy to offer these words:

Customers may not use a Service to transact online sales of any of the following firearms and/or related accessories to private citizens. Firearms: automatic firearms; semi-automatic firearms that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any of the following: thumbhole stock, folding or telescoping stock, grenade launcher or flare launcher, flash or sound suppressor, forward pistol grip, pistol grip (in the case of a rifle) or second pistol grip (in the case of a pistol), barrel shroud; semi-automatic firearms with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds; ghost guns; 3D printed guns; firearms without serial numbers; .50 BMG rifles; firearms that use .50 BMG ammunition. Firearm Parts: magazines capable of accepting more than 10 rounds; flash or sound suppressors; multi-burst trigger devices; grenade or rocket launchers; 80 percent or unfinished lower receivers; blueprints for ghost guns; blueprints for 3D printed guns; barrel shrouds; thumbhole stocks; threaded barrels capable of accepting a flash suppressor or sound suppressor.

Now that's a lot of restrictions. Though, some might note, companies and governments seem to be exempt.

Naturally, this new policy might enrage those who equate owning a gun with their own idea of personal freedom.

It does, indeed, look like another attempt by Salesforce to enter the socio-political sphere. Not so long ago, it battled with several states and their anti-LGBT legislation.

I asked the company to enlighten me as to its thought-process and wondered how it intended to police its new laws.

A spokesperson told me: "After carefully reviewing similar policies in the industry and discussing with internal and external stakeholders, we updated our policy. The change affects new customers and a small number of existing customers when their current contracts expire."

It's true that some companies -- Dick's Sporting Goods was perhaps the most prominent -- have been reconsidering their gun-sales policies. 

Yet, when a software company dictates how its product should be used, it can create distinct ironies. It was Salesforce, after all, which had to face the wrath of its own employees after they learned of its alleged dealings with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This even caused some companies to refuse to work with Salesforce.

Thanks to disturbed political conditions all around the world, corporations have increasingly felt the need to take overtly socio-political stances. Whether it was President Donald Trump's immigration policies or the government's views on encryption, companies are being pressed by their employees to have policies that reflect the employees' own views.

Of course, those of a non-Californian persuasion might wonder what would happen if companies with a more right-wing bent began to dictate what their products could be used for.

What if, for example, the Koch Brothers insisted their products can't be used to build or maintain abortion clinics?

Software, of course, powers so much these days -- and Salesforce is such a big player in the field -- that refusing to comply with policies like Salesforce's will cost customers considerable amounts.

Still, at least customers know where Salesforce stands, which is more than you can say for some other tech companies.

And I'm by no means referring to Facebook when I say that. Well, not just Facebook.

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