In the wee hours of the morning over the holiday, Facebook shut down a number of legal and licensed marijuana shop Pages, giving business owners the chance to remove offending posts but not providing evidence of posts that actually violated Facebook’s Terms of Service.
While Mark Zuckerberg was vacationing in Alaska, his company disabled the Facebook Pages of nearly a dozen businesses that are licensed by the State of Alaska to provide marijuana products for sale in retail establishments through out the state.
Rather than providing options and solutions to these legitimate businesses that were complying with state laws, Facebook interfered with the companies’ ability to do business and keep their customers informed.
Businesses affected included:
The initial removal of Facebook Pages consisted solely of Anchorage-based businesses but has since extended to some Fairbanks and Kenai Peninsula-based businesses as well.
Those not affected either have not been posting frequently or have not yet been identified in this sweep.
In some cases, page admins were allowed to remove offending posts from their Pages and did so, however, no pages have been reinstated at this time. Some admins have also been blocked from Facebook during a three day review period. It remains to be seen if any Pages will be reinstated or if any admins will be permanently blocked from using Facebook with their personal accounts.
Facebook prohibits individuals to “purchase, sell, or trade” marijuana on Facebook, however, an individual acting as an admin representing a company that is acting in a legal manner based on state law is another matter.
Admins monitoring, managing and posting to Facebook Pages should, in general, not be held personally responsible for what they post on behalf of or at the instruction of companies. Shutting down company Facebook Pages is one thing, but barring individuals from posting non-marijuana related news and information to their own personal pages, barring them from messaging friends and family, and blocking their ability to like or comment on any personal posts is taking this action to another level.
Many of the companies are taking to other social networks and private emails and messaging to communicate with their customers.
The State of Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board is currently considering rules for advertising marijuana products. Most marijuana businesses in Alaska have voluntarily posted the State’s five statements that are mandated to appear on all marijuana product packaging to each post on Facebook and other social networks. The statements are:
(1) “Marijuana has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming and addictive.”;
(2) “Marijuana impairs concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under its influence.”;
(3) “There are health risks associated with consumption of marijuana.”;
(4) “For use only by adults twenty-one and older. Keep out of the reach of children.”;
(5) “Marijuana should not be used by women who are pregnant or breast feeding.”
The Facebook appeal page does allow business owners to provide additional information in their appeal. This page is not referenced in the violation notice given to Alaska marijuana businesses nor is the ability to provide additional information after removing potentially offending posts. Also, Facebook states in the violation notice that “the following post was removed” for violating the network’s guidelines, however, the examples are blank, leaving business owners unclear of which posts are in violation and which are not.
From Facebook’s Advertising Policies
These are the rules for purchasing Facebook ads. There is no mention that Pages cannot post about these things, only that ads for these things are prohibited.
Drugs & Drug-Related Products
Ads must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.
Avoid using images of smoking-related accessories (like bongs and rolling papers)
Avoid using images of either recreational or medical marijuana.
Avoid using images that imply the use of a recreational drug.
From Facebook’s Community Standards
Helping to Keep You Safe
We prohibit any attempts by private individuals to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms or ammunition. If you post an offer to purchase or sell alcohol, tobacco, or adult products, we expect you to comply with all applicable laws and carefully consider the audience for that content. We do not allow you to use Facebook’s payment tools to sell or purchase regulated goods on our platform.
We have dedicated teams working around the world to review things you report to help make sure Facebook remains safe.
Governments also sometimes ask us to remove content that violates local laws, but does not violate our Community Standards. If after careful legal review, we find that the content is illegal under local law, then we may make it unavailable only in the relevant country or territory.
Please keep the following in mind:
- We may take action any time something violates the Community Standards outlined here.
- We may ask Page owners to associate their name and Facebook Profile with a Page that contains cruel and insensitive content, even if that content does not violate our policies.
- Reporting something doesn’t guarantee that it will be removed because it may not violate our policies.
- Our content reviewers will look to you for information about why a post may violate our policies. If you report content, please tell us why the content should be removed (e.g., is it nudity or hate speech?) so that we can send it to the right person for review.
- Our review decisions may occasionally change after receiving additional context about specific posts or after seeing new, violating content appearing on a Page or Facebook Profile.
- The number of reports does not impact whether something will be removed. We never remove content simply because it has been reported a number of times.
- The consequences for violating our Community Standards vary depending on the severity of the violation and the person’s history on Facebook. For instance, we may warn someone for a first violation, but if we continue to see further violations we may restrict a person’s ability to post on Facebook or ban the person from Facebook.
Not all disagreeable or disturbing content violates our Community Standards. For this reason, we offer you the ability to customize and control what you see by unfollowing, blocking, and hiding the posts, people, Pages, and applications you don’t want to see – and we encourage you to use these controls to better personalize your experience. Learn more. People also often resolve issues they have about a piece of content by simply reaching out to the person who posted it. We’ve created tools for you to communicate directly with other people when you’re unhappy with posts, photos, or other content you see on Facebook.