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A lawsuit is challenging Facebook’s great green firewall

In the face of an increasingly legalized and expanding cannabis industry, Facebook has always been extremely reticent about the presence of cannabis businesses on the platform. Although the social media giant has made steps to soften their stance, they haven't budged much. The company allowed cannabis pages such as brands and dispensaries in legal states to appear in search results in November of last year, and in March it was revealed they were considering allowing the discussion of buying and selling marijuana on their platform; meaning marijuana companies would finally be able to directly talk about their products on their pages, instead of beating around the bush, so to speak. One thing Facebook still staunchly forbids from the platform, however, is any advertising related to cannabis, and a new Federal lawsuit is taking the platform to task for that.

According to Forbes, media veteran and medical CBD consumer Felicia Palmer, who founded the longest running hip-hop website in the world, SOHH.com, is suing Facebook for rejecting ads for an educational cannabis summit, and for temporarily suspending the page for a new company she founded to put on the summit. The executive director of the New York chapter of NORML, the national marijuana advocacy organization, litigation attorney David C. Holland, Esq., is handling the case pro-bono.

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Hosted by her company Cannoramic Media, Inc., the Cannoramic Online Summit is being broadcast May 20-24. The summit features more than two dozen experts from the world of cannabis including Dr. Raphael Mechoulam; Dr. Monica Taing of Doctors for The Reform of Cannabis Regulations, Roz McCarthy of Minorities for Medical Marijuana; multi-platinum artist RedMan; Melissa Moore of the Drug Policy Alliance; UFC Champion Frank “The Legend” Shamrock; former NHL lineman Riley Cote; and U.S. Army combat veteran José Belén, who sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions over cannabis’ Schedule I status.

According to legal documents obtained by Forbes, Palmer and Cannaramic Media used “deceptive acts and practices, and New York common-law fraud” as the legal reasons for the complaint. “Such practices engaged in by Facebook have resulted in economic loss, censorship, and prevention of the dissemination over the Facebook platform by Plaintiffs of critical information pertaining to cannabis and matters of public health, scientific research and governmental policy which are important to the national interest,” says the complaint.

The plaintiffs were encouraged to spend money by Facebook’s algorithm to boost their social media posts and garner a wider reach, just like the platform reaches out to the owners of almost every other page. It was only after Palmer purchased ads that the algorithm censored and blocked them, which could have potentially put the entire summit in jeopardy.

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As Forbes so eloquently puts it, “In short, the 17-page document [obained by Forbes pertaining to the lawsuit] details how the Facebook algorithm systematically removes, bans, and limits not only the promotion, but also the sharing of information related to legal cannabis, the industry, legalization, social equity, and medical uses of marijuana, even though the plant is now legal in 33 states, the District of Columbia, several U.S. territories, and dozens of countries around the world.”

The case’s argument amounts to a defense of free speech, and its necessity to ensure the welfare of society. Mr. Holland told Forbes that access to this kind of information is “vital to millions of everyday people nationwide who are now or will soon be impacted by the growing movement toward cannabis as a useful and valuable resource in our society.

“When a private company like Facebook (our largest resource for communication) prohibits the flow of this type of information, it essentially amounts to a threat to the public health, social welfare, and economic vitality of our communities,” said Mr. Holland.

(Header Image: Obama White House Archives)
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