[UPDATE Sep 12]
According to Civilized, Facebook admitted to banning and censoring CBD and hemp-related ads on their platforms (Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram).
Social media platforms have been "cracking down" on cannabis-related accounts since 2016. As cannabis becomes legal in more states, the industry is struggling to find a platform where they can educate and advertise safely without having their posts taken down. The lack of consistency in mainstream platforms have prompted many users to resort to more adult-oriented spaces or creating their own platforms. TheWeedTube is one of them.
Born out of the infamous YouTube cannabis purge of 2018, TheWeedTube's founder, Arend Richard (TheGayStoner), got together with some other YouTubers who found their accounts suddenly deleted, including Mackenzie McCurry (Macdizzle420), decided they'd had enough with YouTube and created a platform specifically for the cannabis space. Thus, after some successful crowdfunding campaigns to get themselves off the ground, TheWeedTube was born.
The Cannabis Stigma
Why are all these social media platforms cracking down on cannabis content? The answer, very simply, is money. Mainstream advertisers still don't want to associate themselves with cannabis content, so they're unwilling to put their ads on cannabis-related content creators. Without the ability to monetize their content, sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have been removing these creators' accounts for "violating community guidelines." If advertisers refuse to have their ads on the site, that means no one makes any money. And since "money talks," the advertisers generally get their way.
Poof! Your Account is Deleted
Facebook began the trend in early 2016 by summarily deleting cannabis-related accounts with no warning. Their reason: violating community standards. The specific standard in question reads: "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." That's all well and good, but their purge included accounts that were educating readers about changes in local laws or even sold cannabis-related apparel. Maybe they thought a cotton-poly t-shirt with a pot leaf on it would get you high.
Last year, YouTube went on a purging spree of cannabis-related accounts, completely removing them from the platform. This included TheWeedTube founders Richard and McCurry as well as Joya G, silencedhippie, and Koala Puffs, among many others. Most of them had been dealing with their individual videos being flagged, but this was usually solved with a simple email to YouTube appealing the flag. With their accounts completely gone, many users saw years of videos gone overnight. While most eventually had their accounts restored after a few months of public outcry, some decided it wasn't worth the effort and simply migrated to other platforms. YouTube still hasn't offered an official explanation.
Instagram has taken a different approach to silencing cannabis accounts by simply burying them. "Shadowbanning" is the term used to describe preventing posts and accounts from showing up in hashtags or search results. In other words, if you've been "shadowbanned," only your followers will see your posts, and even that's not guaranteed, thanks to "the algorithm." As with YouTube, Instagram has been mum on the subject, refusing to even acknowledge it exists. Still, the generally accepted theory once again comes down to advertisers and money.
Breaking the Stigma
Although more and more states are legalizing cannabis in some form, the cannabis stigma is still alive and well. As Richard told Forbes in a recent interview, "The issue of stigma in cannabis has held us back in almost every step [when it comes to] software, developers and servers to host our content."
This includes advertising. In the same interview, Richard claims he has yet to be "accepted by a single major ad service, meaning we can't run commercial advertisements on TheWeedTube.com before our videos unless we sell those spots ourselves."
This gives TheWeedTube the opportunity to open its platform to cannabis brands who would otherwise be shunned by more mainstream platforms. Now, cannabis enthusiasts have a place to go for cannabis content, whether it's informative or for entertainment, and cannabis brands have a space where they can advertise to their target demographic.
Richard is certainly doing his part with TheWeedTube. As he told Forbes in a separate interview:
I combat stigma through my actions. They speak louder than words, right? It has been my belief that the cannabis community needs to fight the negative stigma of cannabis by showing the world what a wonderful open-minded community we are. Whether that means using our voices together for more than just cannabis advocacy, or being that person who’s going to pick up someone else’s litter from the streets. Combating stigma is doing good deeds in your everyday life, no matter the level of impact. No matter where you are. No matter who’s watching.
That sounds exactly like what we're trying to accomplish here at Confidence in Cannabiz. Combat stereotypes, showcase cannabis content, and ultimately, change minds and hearts! Together, we can break the stigma and show the world that the cannabis community is a productive, committed community that's not going anywhere. If you're ready and willing to make a bold difference in this industry, create a FREE account on TheWeedTube (or if you are a brand, ask our founder Amanda about the various advertisement options on TWT as they are significantly more affective than other websites and platforms with a better ROI) and say NO to cannabis censorship for good!