If you’re one of our 72,000 Facebook followers then you may well have noticed that our page is currently unavailable. This is because the social media giant decided to unpublish the Seedsman page without warning, claiming that our activities violate their “Community Standards”, yet offering no further details regarding how exactly we have transgressed. Unfortunately, we are far from the only ones being censored, and thousands of cannabis businesses have had their Facebook pages shut down over the past few years, including many fully legal and licensed organisations. Through its unfair and irrational policies, Facebook has significantly hindered the development of the legal cannabis industry worldwide.
Facebook And Cannabis
According to the company’s official Community Standards guidelines, Facebook prohibits all “attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.” This policy was reviewed in 2019, when the company’s executives spent several months debating how to respond to changes in the legal status of cannabis around the world. Their decision, unfortunately, was to uphold their blanket ban, claiming that they simply didn’t have the resources or the inclination to regulate their site and determine which pages were owned by legal companies and which were not.
While this is pretty poor form from a company the size of Facebook, some people might consider this approach to be fair enough, given the complexities of staying up to date with country-specific regulations. However, it fails to take into account why Facebook also comes down so hard on pages that merely talk about cannabis culture.
Several times over the past few years, users have raised the alarm after pages with ‘cannabis’ or ‘marijuana’ in their name stopped appearing in search results on Facebook. This is evidence of the social media platform attempting to “shadow ban” all such pages, which means that while they weren’t taken down altogether, they were made virtually impossible to find, thereby reducing their reach to virtually zilch.
Facebook even has algorithms that automatically detect cannabis-related pages and hits them with a shadow ban. To prove this, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently gave a live demonstration, revealing how the company’s AI system was able to accurately distinguish between a photograph of a cannabis plant and picture of broccoli, tagging the former for punishment.
In our case, Facebook decided to unpublish our page altogether, despite the fact that we’ve been providing content to tens of thousands of fans for over a decade.
How This Affects The Cannabis Industry
Pretty much every company in the world now has a social media manager, with platforms like Facebook having become instrumental in reaching one’s target market and increasing sales. Obviously, then, being excluded from Facebook is a major hindrance to cannabis companies, and makes it significantly harder to grow a brand.
By now you probably won’t be surprised to hear that all advertisements concerning cannabis are totally banned from Facebook, even in countries and states where weed is fully legal.
Yet it’s not just cannabis retailers that have been hit by Facebook’s policies. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control, for instance, has also been subject to a shadow ban, thereby limiting its ability to spread information on issues such as changes to the license application process, for example. By targeting all cannabis-related organisations, therefore, Facebook doesn’t just hinder sales or prevent companies from building their brand, but also stymies the spread of vital information and makes it harder for businesses to get started in the first place.
Given that Facebook and other social media platforms have been so heavily criticised for failing to censor hate speech or online abuse, the company’s eagerness to eliminate cannabis from its site must be seen as not only unwarranted, but highly ironic.