Pot leaves are easy to find on Facebook pages. But the nation’s largest social-networking site has decided they cannot appear in advertisements, prohibiting them as “illegal content.”
The policy was disclosed Tuesday after a national campaign promoting legalization accused Facebook of censoring political speech. The Just Say Now campaign said the popular website rejected its ads after they had run for more than a week. The ads featured the readily recognizable leaf and asked the website’s users to “sign the petition to President Obama to support states’ rights to legalize marijuana.”
“We’re not allowed to show the image of the candidate that we are advancing,” said Michael Whitney, with Firedoglake.com, a progressive blog that is part of the campaign. “That’s why we’re calling out Facebook for this really backwards decision.”
Apparently people in high places at Facebook took offense to the use of the a pot leaf in the ad as more than just tokin’ gesture (pun absolutely intended). They weren’t looking to lose advertising revenue though!
Facebook said it has not banned the ad promoting legalization, just the leaf. “We’d like to reiterate that Just Say Now can promote their campaign and petition through Facebook Ads as long as they use another image,” said Annie Ta, a spokeswoman.
The trouble is that the ad got twice as many hits (pun once again intended completely) as the same ad running with President Obama as the image. (Actually it said the ad was twice as effective but that’s not nearly as funny as hits, right?) Maybe they could use former President Clinton in the ad but since he didn’t inhale it may not be the best option either.
The whole incident draws attention to just how Facebook can be two faced about certain things. Apparently Facebook isn’t totally dead set against marijuana, just advertising it is uncool. Their official statement is
On Tuesday, Ta said the pot leaf was excluded because Facebook does not allow images of drugs, drug paraphernalia or tobacco in ads and then later said, “Our advertising policies prohibit the paid promotion of illegal content.” The policy bans tobacco ads. It says nothing specific about drugs or drug paraphernalia, but it indicates that ads cannot contain or promote “unlawful content” or “illegal activity.”
It’s at this point that Facebook uses some creative ‘wordsmithing’ because the decision is about ‘the paid promotion of illegal content’. As for all the pages on Facebook that use that same pot leaf and then extol the virtues of the herb?
Facebook has numerous pages that include images of marijuana leaves and buds, including some that are devoted to growing marijuana, which remains a federal crime. Ta noted that the website has different policies for its free users. One of the many responsibilities listed in that policy is that users “will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful.”
Self policing on Facebook? If there was ever an oxymoron that’s gotta be it! If you would like to see just how hard Facebook clamps down on the pot culture check out the NORML Fan Page. Gee, no use of pot imagery or selling of anything there, huh?
Sometimes you gotta wonder what the good folks of Facebook are smoking these days themselves.