While the Cannabis Culture in South Africa may be starting to see the light of legalisation, the digital realm of Social Media and the Metaverse continues to hold us back. Leading social media platforms are yet to get with the high times we live in. Despite the social media dependance on popular culture, when it comes to cannabis, marijuana, weed, dagga, or whatever you call the holy herb, it doesn’t make the cut when dealing with the social media giants. Unfortunately, marketing and advertising across the digital space is being censored making business growth exceedingly difficult for legal cannabis businesses.
Social Media Censorship and the Cannabis Industry
Meta paints all their platforms with the same brush by preventing and purging cannabis content from their platforms. Both Facebook and Instagram state it quite clearly in their community guidelines that cannabis is not welcome.
According to reports in 2019, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated an anti-cannabis algorithm that is able to distinguish between images of harvested cannabis bud and that of broccoli. Once the algorithm has identified an image of cannabis bud it signals the system to implement a shadow ban on the content.
What is a Shadow Ban?
A shadow ban is when a social media platform restricts visibility of posts and content without notifying the content owner. This is done so that no one can interact with the content. This has a detrimental impact on organic social which is almost the only channel available for promoting cannabis based businesses. Shadow banning prevents any content from reaching potential customers.
Social Throttling of Cannabis Businesses
Facebook and Instagram don’t just hide your content, they will destroy all your social media marketing efforts in one foul swoop by deleting cannabis-themed pages without warning and without even giving a reason.
We have heard of numerous Facebook and Instagram pages being taken down with no explanation or option to directly appeal. Even shifting to alternative personal accounts and pages may still result in content and pages being removed.
Even big retailers are not immune to this censorship, as social media algorithms don’t distinguish between legal and illicit businesses or products. Many retailers have had their social media pages deactivated when selling a cannabis related product despite not breaking any laws.
Despite its growing popularity as a trend setter, TikTok is as oppressive as the rest of them, banning all references to cannabis culture. Videos that are tagged with a term associated with cannabis, marijuana, or weed tend to be removed.
Although Twitter is less hostile to cannabis, Twitter users still have to avoid hashtags containing cannabis culture vocabulary if they want their posts and pages to remain visible. However, Twitter does allow cannabis companies to advertise where it is legal to do so.
Is Social Media Cannabis Friendly?
Fortunately it’s not all doom and gloom, LinkedIn offers a fair approach to promoting cannabis. Because the platform is used as a networking tool for industry professionals, it doesn’t censor users who align themselves with the cannabis industry. LinkedIn helps to connect cannabis businesses and entrepreneurs with growers and investors. LinkedIn has played a positive role in the industry’s growth and is undoubtedly the most 420-friendly of the social media giants.
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Despite the daily risk of removal, we’re still trying to cultivate a friendly social media community in South Africa. Follow us and join our peaceful 420 friendly community.