In the same week Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it’s time to legalize marijuana federally, Growing Marijuana Perfectly heard from two marijuana seed companies that Facebook and related social media platforms had killed their social media accounts.
“I had more than 10,000 followers, many of whom I considered friends,” said a major seed company founder who spoke anonymously out of fear of retribution from the tech giants that control social media access.
“Suddenly, without warning, my Facebook pages were deactivated, I wasn’t able to post, I was removed from Instagram and YouTube. My advertising program was disabled. When I contacted Facebook and other platforms, they first ignored me, then gave me vague statements that I violated policies but refused to provide specific instances of it. It appears that there’s nothing I can do.”
For people in the marijuana and hemp industries, social media censorship is nothing new—it’s just an indication that the war on cannabis is far from over, despite Schumer’s plans for federal legalization, legalization in many states, and the fact that Congress legalized hemp growing in 2018.
Hundreds of cannabis entrepreneurs and advocates whose social media platforms promoted CBD, hemp products, recreational marijuana, marijuana growing and even marijuana grow gear have seen their media presence and advertising disappear into a black hole of tech giant censorship.
Facebook is headed by Mark Zuckerberg, portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie The Social Network as a greedy, nerdy, backstabbing, arrogant kid who grew up to be one of the world’s richest, most powerful men.
Facebook, along with Twitter, Google and YouTube, are monopoly media pipelines essential to commerce, politics, activism, and even interpersonal relationships.
“If I can’t talk about my marijuana seeds and strains online through Facebook and other social media, I lose the easiest, cheapest channels for reaching growers who want seeds,” a cannabis seeds company owner told us. “As soon as I was booted from these platforms, my orders went down fast.”
The marijuana seeds company owner says he has tried to counter social media censorship by making a professional website using all the latest tricks and tactics for ranking high in Google searches.
“Unfortunately, we’ve discovered that Google and other search engines are manipulating their algorithms so people can’t find cannabis businesses easily or at all,” he said.
The owner says the tech giants are guilty of dishonesty, fraud, and hypocrisy. He was banned before for no reason, he explains, but then found he was able to start a new Facebook page several weeks later. This lasted a few months until he was banned again.
But just before his most recent eviction from Facebook, he was contacted by a Facebook sales rep trying to sell him targeted advertising, search engine tricks and other tools to increase his social media visibility.
“One week they’re personally reaching out to make money off me and promote business visibility,” he says. “Two weeks later, I’m banned.”
The owner said he’s a member of several cannabis trade and political organizations, and that they too are experiencing social media censorship, even though they’re in the marketplace of ideas rather than cannabis products.
Another seed company owner expressed anger at being bounced from Facebook and other social media, saying he “hated” Zuckerberg and Facebook, calling them “commies and liberals.”
Indeed, conservatives have frequently accused Facebook and other tech giant social media of unfairly, disproportionately censoring conservatives, especially after former president Donald Trump was banned from Twitter for making comments that violated the platform’s terms of service.
At the same time, hundreds of progressive, liberal, Green and social justice magazines, groups and activists also complained they’ve been banned from social media for political reasons, and that right-wing social media exposure has been juiced by biased social media company algorithms.
According to credible published reports, Facebook gave supposedly-confidential private information on 50 million of its American users to political data science company Cambridge Analytica which was working for the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
Cambridge Analytica is funded by hard-right billionaire Robert Mercer. The company got the data of 50 million Facebook users without their permission, and used the data to craft personalized political propaganda on behalf of Trump.
Experts believe that the fake news and other manipulation used in this effort is a major reason Trump won in 2016.
Zuckerberg appears to be friends with Trump and many of Trump’s ultra-right wing allies. He had at least one secret meeting with Trump while Trump was president, and has hosted right-wing talk show hosts at his mansion.
Zuckerberg is often accompanied by right-wing tech billionaire and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, a businessman who is in bed with government spy agencies and opposes women’s right to vote. Thiel was one of the earliest and most strident backers of Trump’s political career.
Facebook’s vice president of public policy is Republican operative Joel Kaplan, who has repeatedly been accused of being a misinformation propagandist.
Before Facebook, Kaplan had a long history of working for the GOP. He was a participant in the famous “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000, in which Kaplan, Roger Stone, Brett Kavanaugh and other wealthy Republicans physically intimidated Florida vote counters in a successful effort to steal the presidential election from Al Gore and hand it to George W. Bush.
Kaplan later went on to work in the Bush administration, and was hired in 2011 as a Facebook executive. He has publicly stated that he works to make Facebook more right-wing. He opposes Facebook’s attempts to censor racist and violent speech, and shut down fake news Facebook groups.
Kaplan defended Russia’s successful efforts to interfere in American elections, was a major advocate of his buddy Brett Kavanaugh being placed on the Supreme Court, and has influenced Facebook to hire many ultra-right conservatives for executive positions.
Kaplan is accused of being allied with right-wing media personalities like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, and there have been persistent, credible accusations that he has blocked removal of known fake news Facebook users and groups originating in Russia.
In last year’s plot by right-wing militia members to kidnap and kill Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Facebook public and private posts were essential to the militia’s battle planning.
Earlier this year, Zuckerberg told Congress his company had done everything possible to prevent violent anti-government rioters from using Facebook to organize and carry out the January 6th attack on Congress.
But shortly after he testified, Buzzfeed news revealed an internal Facebook investigation contradicting Zuckerberg, indicating that Facebook posts and groups were integral to the January 6th insurrection.
Soon after Trump took office, his marijuana-hating attorney general Jeff Sessions reversed Obama-era policies that told feds to keep their hands off of legalized marijuana states.
Within weeks of that policy change, almost all the marijuana cultivation and seed company channels on YouTube were purged. Growers and content providers lost tens of thousands of hours of valuable curated content.
Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been credibly accused of assisting authoritarian governments censor search results, Facebook pages, and otherwise repress free speech and certain types of commerce in a variety of countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, China, and Vietnam.
Twitter is blocking tweets from citizens who oppose how India’s Prime Minister Narendera Modi has handled the country’s COVID crisis. India is among the countries worst-hit by COVID, and many Indians believe Modi has mishandled the pandemic.
Tweets such as the following one from an opposition politician, which clearly do not advocate violence or otherwise violated Twitter terms of service, are removed by Twitter at the request of Modi’s government:
“India recording over 2 [hundred thousand] cases everyday, shortage of vaccines, shortage of medicines, increasing number of deaths … healthcare system is collapsing.”
Social media monopolies are also accused of siding with the Vietnamese government.
“In the last decade, the right to freedom of expression flourished on Facebook and YouTube in Vietnam. More recently, however, authorities began focusing on peaceful online expression as an existential threat to the regime,” explains Ming Yu Hah, of justice advocate Amnesty International. “But today these platforms have become hunting grounds for censors, military cyber-troops and state-sponsored trolls. The platforms themselves are not merely letting it happen—they’re increasingly complicit.”
Google and Facebook are accused of giving up personal information and assisting government surveillance leading to arrest of dissidents in authoritarian countries.
As for the accusation that Facebook is “commie,” Facebook is officially banned by China’s ruling Communist Party.
On the other hand, there have been persistent revelations that wealthy Russian oligarchs tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin had or have ownership stakes in or huge influence over Facebook and other social media tech giants.
Courageous Neil Young, the legendary rocker we’ve profiled before because of his work against Monsanto and other environmental criminals, is also warring against Facebook and Google.
During the recent presidential campaign, Young said, “Facebook knowingly allows untruths and lies in its political ads to circulate on the platform, while bots sow discord among users. Sowing dissent and chaos in our country via political disinformation is something we cannot condone. Simply put, Facebook is screwing with our election.”
Young spent a lot of his own money to keep his Neil Young music site from being accessed by Google and Facebook accounts.
As we’ve investigated marijuana industry complaints about Facebook and other social media, we’ve tried to figure out why tech giants censor the cannabis community when they happily allow all kinds of stupid, violent and dangerous social media content, and what if anything can be done about it.
Some growers and seed company owners who saw YouTube and Facebook remove videos and other postings showing professional grow ops and promoting specific cannabis strains tried to go “vanilla,” by making their content much less explicit.
“We kept trying to scale back what we were saying about growing and our seeds, and started included weasel statements in our content saying cannabis may be illegal in some locales and we weren’t advocating criminal behavior, but it didn’t make any difference, we got banned anyway,” a seed company rep told us.
Personally, none of the growers here at Growing Marijuana Perfectly have ever participated in Facebook or any other social media platform. We’ve long known that portable phones are drug war tracking and recording devices, and social media is a surveillance tool and privacy buster.
We know several growers who got busted because of what they shared on social media and see no reason to broadcast our lives, identities, families, or marijuana growing to anyone online.
But of course, cannabis entrepreneurs and activists have good reason to use social media and now they’re wondering how they can avoid being disappeared by Facebook and other tech giants, and how they can market their marijuana seeds and other cannabis products online.
Here are some tactics:
- Find alternate media channels to be part of. Free-speech platforms such as Mantis Ad Network are increasingly used by the cannabis community.
- Build the best website possible, especially focusing on keywords and other search engine popularization tactics.
- Advertise in high quality cannabis publications, of which there are only a few worldwide.
- Establish referral programs and other methods so existing customers or associates network you with people who would be interested in your cannabis industry products and/or information.
- Attend cannabis festivals and trade fairs as vendors.
- Continually create new social media identities, accounts, groups and pages. Do the same for YouTube videos. Even if the tech giants’ anti-cannabis algorithms catch you, you will have had at least some live time to gain exposure with target audiences.
- Ally with cannabis trade groups such as the National Cannabis Industry Association.
- Organize boycotts and do other anti-tech giant activism.
- Zuckerberg and the rich people who run and own tech giants are subject to investigation by Congress. Contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to help you fight back.
- Participate in the dark web.
- Watch the videos embedded in this article.
We reached out to the tech giants for comment before we published this article. After a particularly contentious exchange with a Google representative, the Gmail account of the grower-journalist attempting to interview Google was closed down with no warning.
Given the immense power that tech giants have over us, and the amount of private information they have about us, you have to be careful about protecting your identity and life when fighting back.
These corporations are worldwide communications monopolies, they’re in bed with repressive governments, and they provide little transparency when it comes to how or why they enforce their anti-cannabis policies.
All we got from Facebook was this bland statement:
“To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers, and retailers to purchase, sell, or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, and marijuana.”
It’s obvious that Big Brother is watching you, and in some cases censoring or narking on you. It’s probably going to take a V for Vendetta type of fight-back if the marijuana community wants free speech in social media.
And hey there, rich kid Mark Zuckerberg, smoke some buds and chill out—your face has the perpetually pained expression of someone with terminal constipation!