My editor had a question about social media and marijuana, something I’m a bit familiar with. “You ever have a problem with buying weed-related ads on Facebook?”
Yes, I have. In the past, running ads on Facebook for my blog and more recently for “The Young Jurks,” I have learned that it is standard operating procedure for the site not to approve ads with marijuana leaf graphics or with “objectionable” words such as “cannabis.”
With the most recent example, they were blocking Facebook promotion for this column, The Tokin’ Truth. Not because we’re selling legal medical marijuana (we’re not). Rather, they’re rejecting the mere words used in our stories, and denying us the ability to further disseminate political commentary. This may be their right as a private company, but it’s nevertheless censorship of the ugliest kind. It’s worth noting that political campaigns aiming to legalize the herb have been similarly frustrated by Facebook’s cannabis ban.
Here’s where things get extra sticky: There is also an ongoing ridiculous double-standard afoot. This is worth noting because this same social media bigfoot profits big time off app games like Pot Farm, and because Facebook happily accepts some seriously objectionable ads. But we’ll get to one of those in a moment.
In October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted: “US jails hold around 2.4 million people — about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Blacks and Hispanics are significantly more likely than whites to be arrested for possession and sale of marijuana and to receive a conviction and criminal record, even though the majority of marijuana users are non-Hispanic whites.”
With that in mind, perhaps Zuckerberg should lift the Facebook block on journalism that reports this same news. Maybe instead of blocking ads for this column and others like it, the behemoth should offer us some free promotion.
This canna-blocking is especially strange when you consider some of the organizations that Facebook takes ads from, like Americans for Peace & Tolerance (APT), who are far from peaceful or tolerant. Recently, APT linked to a Breitbart.com article that attempts to cast Muslim Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen as being aligned with Hamas. Disgustingly, the APT ad uses murdered MIT police officer Sean Collier to push a hateful agenda, while the article itself is full of conspiracy, innuendo, and misrepresentations.
Mazen calls the Breitbart takedown hate speech and Islamophobia, which is plainly the case. Backing him up, on the most recent episode of “The Young Jurks,” Cambridge resident and recent candidate for City Council Mike Connolly called the Breitbart piece “trash,” while the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has labeled APT a hate group, and US Attorney Carmen Ortiz called the group’s claims “incredibly racist and unfair.”
Facebook is OK with advertisements for libelous hate speech and slander against Muslims. Ads for credible marijuana reform journalism, on the other hand, no way. Zuckerberg, if you are listening, you have a problem. Fix it.
Facebook did not return a request for response in time for our deadline.
Mike Crawford is a medical marijuana patient, the host of “The Young Jurks” on WEMF Radio, and the author of the weekly column The Tokin’ Truth, which is produced in coordination with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He formerly wrote the column Blunt Truth under the name Mike Cann.