Facebook Shadowbans the Bureau of Cannabis Control

Fuckin’ Zuckerberg is back at it again.

Facebook has never been a cannabis-friendly platform, particularly for small businesses trying to use it for some grassroots marketing to their friends and fans. But it seems that the wave of marijuana legalization currently sweeping the globe has encouraged the social media monster to take another look at the issue.

So, they have, and now it appears that they have hit the bottom of the barrel by employing a tactic referred to as “shadow banning” on any Facebook pages or accounts that contain the words ‘cannabis’ or ‘marijuana’.

When an account or page gets shadow banned, it is not deleted. In fact, the owner of the page may not even notice that anything has changed unless they monitor the traffic that their page receives. You see, once shadow banned, that page will no longer show up in any attempts to search for it unless the searcher has already “Liked” the page.

Since no new users will ever find these pages, Facebook is convinced that whatever message they are trying to spread will be contained and eventually strangled into silence.

Traditionally, Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram would target accounts that were hands on with the plant – growers, extractors, dispensaries, etc. But their latest dragnet is interesting in what it bogs down and what it lets through.

For example, the Bureau of Cannabis Control is the regulatory oversight agency in charge of California’s legal recreational cannabis market. They set and enforce the rules that the market must abide by, and as such, companies and associated agencies up and down the state constantly rely on the BCC for informational updates on the ever-changing industry.

But if you have never “Liked” the BCC’s Facebook page before, you’ll never find them by typing Bureau of Cannabis Control into the Facebook search bar. Instead you get this:

It might be funny if it was only happening to them, but even Alex Traverso of the Bureau is not laughing.

“We have reached out to Facebook with no response so far,” Traverso told Marijuana Moment. “This is the first time something like this has happened. In fact, we’ve even done promoted posts on Facebook before without any issue.”

There is no doubt that the BCC will have its appeal heard by Facebook and they will likely be posting paid ads again soon, but what about the rest of us?

This shadowban has extended to advocates, activists, media outlets, apparel retailers, and anyone else even tangentially related to what is a 100% legal industry in many parts of the country and around the world.

Last year, Twitter temporarily shadowed all searches for the term ‘marijuana’ from all of its 330 million daily users and Facebook’s pay-to-play advertising scam is more flawed than ever.

For years now, if you have a Business Page on Facebook, the only way to actually reach the followers and customers that you have earned is to pay for a ‘Sponsored’ ad through the platform.

If you are trying to sell real estate or knitted hats, Facebook gladly takes that money and allows your ad to be published.

But if you are trying to promote a cannabis-themed rally, or a news article about legalization efforts, or if you have an online store full of heady apparel, those ad requests are typically denied within a matter of minutes after they are submitted.

Facebook says that these ads violate the “community standards” by promoting the use or sale of “illegal drugs”.

Meanwhile, MedMen Inc. the corporate cannabis behemoth with pot shop locations up and down the Cali coast – including at the LAX airport – is somehow allowed to run their ‘Sponsored’ ads that literally lead Facebook users directly to cannabis sales.

It’s just a clue that “pay-to-play” means something entirely different when you can write huge checks.

Some may chalk this discrimination up to a bug, or just being able to trick the algorithm, and that may be the case with the BCC. But Facebook has shown its ability to manipulate what its users see in virtually any way they choose.

For example, up until 2016 people were making potentially illegal firearm sales on Facebook. Developers were able to put an end to that as soon as it became headline news and now they even have safeguards in place to make sure that minors will not see sidebar ads for firearms and accessories.

Facebook could easily help cannabis entrepreneurs target very specific audiences to grow their businesses, just as they have with MedMen, but they choose not to.

A big thumbs down for Zuck and just another reason to log off the ‘Book.

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