Features // February 11, 2021 // Ben Berkowitz

Facebook Hates My Weed

Facebook Hates My Weed
We all do it — some of us more than others — but close to 80 percent of adults in the United States ages 18-49 years old are habitual users of Facebook. Over 60 percent of our beloved Boomers (60 years old and up) are on the social media platform. A few off-the-grid luddites notwithstanding, for most of us, Facebook is ubiquitous in our life. We buy, share, laugh, love and read about the events of the world on its digital pages. But for some in the last decade of revolution in the legal cannabis industry, Facebook hasn’t been so easy.

Suspended for Weed

A few months ago I was notified by Facebook that my account was suspended for 48 hours for content not "fitting with their community standards." Yes, I had dared to post a photograph of some weed. You know, the plant that is now legal in 35 states and should never have been considered a drug in the first place for many reasons: huge medicinal value, all natural, a way to spiritually and recreationally enjoy social time. Well, the plant passed down from the ancients apparently has no place in the new world order of Facebook.

Facebook Suppresses Legal Cannabis

I'm just a bystander in the fight for cannabis freedom on social media. At least one lawsuit and large numbers of complaints have been heard by Facebook admins and their leaders in Silicon Valley. But I think the issues with legal cannabis and users are symbolic of bigger issues that have plagued Facebook in recent years, compounding problems regarding politics and disinformation. If the site is being maintained in ways that suppresses positive legal topics like CBD and medical marijuana, but allows holocaust denial, fraudulent election statistics and hate speech, then maybe this is not the best algorithm. Here's a perfect Covid-era solution: Facebook should hire some of the millions of unemployed Americans who would be happy to troubleshoot and administer Facebook. Why can’t Facebook be returned to the original community, by and for the people? Anything to make what has become a cold, heartless place more human would be an improvement.

Best Posting Practices

Many cannabis entrepreneurs struggle to get paid ads approved by Facebook. One of the biggest hurdles is Facebook flagging words and phrases without letting users know what they are, or giving them an opportunity to edit posts. As Facebook blocks, suspends and sometimes bans users for weed posts, some of them are getting creative to remain active. One technique companies can try is to create a landing page that allows Facebook users to click their ad, and instead of it redirecting to a website which is likely to be flagged by Facebook, it clicks to a splash page with an option to visit the cannabis business website. As companies attempt to stay within Facebook's ambiguous community standards, many have complained that admins associated with cannabis posts that have been flagged have then subsequently been individually censored and flagged. A sort of preemptive guilt by association, reminiscent of the movie Minority Report. This makes a strong statement. It would seem Facebook is saying, "We will flag you because we know you will one day commit a gross violation of our community standards, according to our algorithm. And if not, it’s the AI’s fault." There are users and groups that simply have the word Weed or Cannabis in their name without any mention or active posting about buying selling or even using cannabis. And complaints are being raised regarding the inability to use the search engine on Facebook to find these groups. If Facebook blocks searching for those names and prohibits them from buying ads while flagging or suspending accounts, it doesn’t make it possible to work within any community standards at all.

Facebook Should Be Cool With My Weed

I have very little pride in my Facebook. It's an easy way to keep in touch with people all over the world. It can be a fun way to share news and ideas, but I'm old-fashioned, and I still maintain a sense of privacy from my IRL. And as crazy as it may sound, my Facebook account is often a misleading, incomplete view of my life and work. It's a carefully curated collage of some highlights, strategic plugs of my writing, beloved comedy shows or films, my family, and yeah — cannabis! It’s a big part of my life and work, and I should be able to include it free and legal on Facebook because that is my brand. You listening, Zuck?