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Only 0.05% of Posts on Meta Violate Their Policies – So Why Is The Cannabis Industry Still Being Targeted?

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The cannabis industry and Meta have been ‘frenemies’ from the start. Cannabis businesses and marketers work tirelessly to stay within the confines of Meta’s Restricted Goods and Services, and the tirelessness is becoming plain old tired. 


However, recently, Meta has released new data in their Transparency Center that gives users complete access to data related to violations of their policies. We couldn’t help ourselves – we went on a data dive to see what we could find, and what we discovered confirmed our suspicions: the cannabis industry is likely being targeted.

How Many Posts Are Actually Violating Meta’s Policies?

According to Meta:


“In Q3 2023, the upper limit was 0.05% for violations of our policy for restricted goods and services on Facebook. This means that out of every 10,000 views of content on Facebook, we estimate no more than 5 of those views contained content that violated the policy.” 


You read that right! Only 0.05% of ALL Facebook posts directly violate their restricted goods and services guidelines. 


These restrictions include posts that contain buying and selling of firearms, high-risk drugs, non-pharmaceutical drugs, marijuana (we have our own category), endangered species, livestock, human blood, alcohol/tobacco, weight loss products, historical artifacts, entheogens, and other hazardous goods and materials. 


Despite the relatively small number of cannabis businesses and the array of categories they span, these companies and their marketers continue to face persistent challenges with account flagging. This occurs even when they meticulously adhere to the established guidelines. 


The issue underscores a deeper, systemic problem within the regulatory framework and the algorithms used by platforms to enforce policies. According to Chelsea Bates, Director of Community Relations & Engagement at PufCreativ: 


“Navigating the terrain of cannabis social media marketing requires devotion to compliance guidelines and strategies to stay within those parameters. Even after following these guidelines, every now and again I still see flags pop up on my clients’ accounts, even after following community guidelines. My team and I have come to realize that it’s unavoidable at this point. There’s not an issue with us following rules; it’s an issue with the algorithms misinterpreting our content.”

How Much Drug-Related Content Did Meta Take Action On? 

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As mentioned, marijuana has its own category in the restricted goods and services category. Still, the data about the content that received action fell into two categories: drugs and firearms.


Meta gathers data on content and account actions through a comprehensive monitoring and enforcement process. This process involves measuring the number of content pieces, like posts, photos, videos, or comments, as well as accounts, that are found to violate their standards. Actions taken against such content can range from removal — to covering it with warnings — or, in severe cases, disabling accounts.


However, this measurement, known as “content actioned,” is complex and influenced by various factors. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the effectiveness of violation detection or the impact on the community. For instance, a large number of actions taken in a short period might be due to an external event like a cyber attack, rather than an improvement in policy enforcement.


At the end of 2022, Facebook actioned 5.4 million posts in the “Drugs” category, and Instagram actioned 3.1 million. By the end of Q3, both numbers dropped to 1.8 million and 2.2 million, respectively. 


The way Meta categorizes and reports data on content actioned, particularly under the “Drugs” category, has significant implications for the cannabis industry. Despite marijuana having its own classification within the restricted goods and services category, it is lumped together with other drugs in Meta’s reporting, similar to its improper scheduling on a federal level. 


This merging can present a handful of issues:

  • This lack of specificity makes it difficult for cannabis businesses to understand the extent to which their content is being targeted (or if certain types of cannabis content are more likely to be actioned than others).

  • Including cannabis with more widely-prohibited or dangerous drugs can misrepresent the risk profile of cannabis-related content. This leads to overly cautious or inconsistent enforcement of policies.

  • Without clear data, it’s challenging for cannabis businesses and advocates to argue for more nuanced or favorable policies on social media platforms.

  • This broad categorization can lead to unpredictability and inconsistency in enforcement, causing challenges for cannabis businesses that rely on social media to run their operations.


You may be asking yourself, “Who has the time to sit around and report posts?” It turns out – no one has to! 


In Meta’s most recent data, they found that only 2.7% of actioned posts on Facebook were reported by users, while only 0.40% of actioned posts on Instagram were reported by users. That’s less than half of a percentage!


This data shows how much Meta relies on algorithms and artificial intelligence to monitor and manage posted content. And, if the algorithm searches for “drugs” without accounting for the nuances of the legal cannabis landscape, it means it will continuously target cannabis businesses and marketers.

What Can The Cannabis Industry Do With This Information?

This recent data release in Meta’s Transparency Center, which provides comprehensive insights into policy violations, offers valuable information for these businesses. 


Here’s how the cannabis industry can leverage this data:

  • Knowing that Meta’s algorithms and AI systems are responsible for a vast majority of content flagging, cannabis businesses should tailor their content to be more algorithm-friendly. This might involve avoiding certain keywords or phrases commonly associated with the broader “Drugs” category and focusing on educational and informational content.

  • Armed with this data, cannabis businesses and advocates can push for more nuanced policies from Meta. In fact, a petition to demand fair and equal marketing on Instagram was initiated by Arend Richard, founder of Weedtube in March of 2022.

  • Businesses should prepare for sudden shifts in the way platforms action content. It’s crucial to develop contingency plans, such as broadening their reach across different social media platforms or establishing a solid email subscriber base.


Overall, Meta has handed the cannabis industry ample information on a silver platter to better understand and navigate the complex landscape of social media policy enforcement. By adapting strategies, advocating for change, and seeking collaborative solutions, the industry can mitigate some of the challenges posed by current policies and algorithms.

PufCreativ: Cannabis Advertising & Marijuana Marketing Agency – Getting Back to the Real Purpose of Social Media

At PufCreativ, we use consumer intelligence, competitor benchmarking, social SEO implementation, and social listening to understand our audience and get back to what social media was originally created for — all while staying within the confines of community guidelines.

Allow us to become your trusted partners in implementing your creative and data-driven strategies, all while adhering to the required compliance and utilizing our extensive expertise in the cannabis retail marketing field. Embark on a transformative cannabis marketing journey with PufCreativ—your reliable partner for success.

Should you have any inquiries, wish to examine our case studies, or arrange a demo, please don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@Pufcreativ.comor we can Get Started on a project right away!