Bruce Barcott, Leafly
Facebook’s release earlier today of new community standards meant to govern how people use the service raised a question in the cannabis world: Will the guidelines help our social media accounts?
The short answer is no.
The social media giant’s 27-page guidance document, made public for the first time on Tuesday, includes general rules governing how the platform handles terrorism, intellectual property, personal safety, organized hate, mass murder, human trafficking, criminal activity, and drug sales. Also, cannabis—kind of.
“We want people to know our standards, and we want to give people clarity,” Monika Bickert,
Facebook’s head of global policy management, said in an interview with the Washington Post. She added that she hoped publishing the guidelines would spark dialogue. “We are trying to strike the line between safety and giving people the ability to really express themselves.”
The Shutdowns Still Happen
Two years ago Facebook engaged in a highly publicized campaign to remove cannabis-related posts and accounts from some of the industry’s most-recognized brands, including Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, edibles maker Dixie Elixirs, Boulder dispensary The Farm, and media company MassRoots.
Although the publicity surrounding the great cannabis purge of 2016 has died down, plenty of companies still find their accounts deleted without warning.
Mauria Betts, owner and creative director of Potency, a cannabis-focused branding and marketing agency based in Portland, OR, told Leafly that “most of our clients have been dealing with” Facebook’s murky rules for many years. “We’ve had clients with [Facebook] accounts that have been shut down with no notice,” she said.
As a result, Betts said her firm uses social networking sites to develop a brand’s story and aesthetic while playing down specific photos and mentions of cannabis.
“There’s still an opportunity to use Instagram and Facebook
she said, “to promote a company’s values, and let consumers know what makes them different.”
Baffled’ By Facebook’s Policy
The newly public standards fall short of Bickert’s stated desire to give users clarity, however. The guidelines are vague and general, and seem to function more as guidance for Facebook employees who appraise accounts and decide who stays and who goes.
“I’ll give them credit,” said Lauren Gibbs, the founder of Rise Above Social Strategies, a marketing firm that specializes in the cannabis space. “These standards are far more detailed than anything I’ve seen in the past.”
At a time when Facebook is facing scrutiny from regulators and the public alike, “it’s good that they’re taking this moment to reassess a lot of things,” Gibbs said. “I see that they’ve expanded their articulated views on firearms, bullying, and child safety.”
“But I continue to be baffled by how Facebook is treating cannabis,” Gibbs added. “More than half the states now have legal marijuana in some form, and yet [Facebook is] continuing to restrict that content.” Reading through the community standards document with an eye toward cannabis, she said, “is pretty confusing.”