Initially Facebook (FB), considered the most influential social networking site around, accepted advertising from the Just Say Now group to help promote the legalization of pot.
(Image of Dutch marijuana leaf - Haap Media Ltd., - All Rights Reserved)
In fact, FB ran the legalization ads from August 7th to August 16th which generated 38 million impressions. The Just Say Now's fan page grew to over 6,000 members in very short order, but then FB suddenly withdrew the ads.
Poof. One minute the ads were there. The next they were gone. The problem? The marijuana leaf.
Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said "The image of a pot leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies." Noyes' comments were express in an email to Just Say Now, which was published on various news sites and on the Web.
But Just Say Now points out Facebook's ad rules only ban promotion of tobacco, but not smoking in general. In fact, since the 1970s, marijuana paraphernalia vendors have found ways around the laws against advertising pot related paraphernalia by disingenuously claiming their products are "for tobacco use only."
The Just Say Now campaign is arguing they are not promoting tobacco, which Facebook bans, they are promoting marijuana.
What a fine kettle of fish this has turned out to be. It's become a catch-22 issue, but has angered a wide range of Facebook friends, fans and members. The Just Say Now coalition believes Facebook's removal of their ads is a form of censorship and it's a blow to their campaign.
(Image of pot plants - Haap Media, Ltd. - All Rights Reserved)
The coalition is working very hard to get pot legalized. They are gathering signatures on college campuses calling for legalization and registering young people to vote. Conservative college students condemned Facebook's restrictions pointing out their generation made Facebook successful because it was a community where they could be free and discuss issues like sensible drug policy.
The head of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), told the Huffington Post in an email. "If Facebook censorship policies continue to reflect those of our government by suppressing freedom of speech then they won't have to wait until Election Day to be voted obsolete."
YAF was founded in the 1960s by William Buckley's estate; Buckley was a longtime and vocal supporter of marijuana legalization.
Facebook has been criticized as being completely out of touch with its customers and visitors. Aaron Houston,executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said "their business will suffer if they don't reverse this decision. We're way beyond reefer madness and censorship. Facebook should get with the times."
Ironically, while Facebook is banning the ad, a wide range of both conservative and liberal media outlets such as The Nation, The New Republic, Human Events, Red State, Antiwar, Reason, Drug War Rant, Stop The Drug War, Daily Paul, Lew Rockwell, The Young Turks, My DD, AmericaBlog, Pam's House Blend and Raw Story have agree to run the legalization ads beginning on Tuesday.
Just Say Now is launching a Facebook petition against their decision. The group knows that FB often responds to user feedback and petitions directed at the social networking giant. Just Say Now is asking people to replace their current FB profile photos with the image of a pot leaf which caused Facebook to pull the Just Say Now ads.
The group believes Facebook is banning the freedom of political speech. They note Facebook is being "unfair and unacceptable." Just Say Now has proclaimed "Facebook should reverse its decision and allow the free discussion of U.S. drug policy that the country is ready for."
Facebook takes the position they "reserve the right to determine what advertising we accept, and we may choose to not accept ads containing or relating to certain products or services." Facebook is maintaining a marijuana leaf is classified with all smoking products, not just pot, and therefore is unacceptable under the FB policies.
Just Say Now is not the only group which have had their ads regarding marijuana removed from Facebook. There have been other instances of Facebook censorship by refusing or removing the ads. Facebook is insisting they have the right to have final say over what ads they run.
Just Say Now will not be silenced and will continue on with their campaign, with or without Facebook.
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