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Now that cannabidiol (CBD) has been legalized and gone mainstream, you’d think that you’d be seeing ads for CBD-related products all over Facebook. After all, in the real world, you can buy CBD-infused creams, ointments, and just about anything else you could think of (including coffees, shampoos and chocolates). And, by some estimates, as many as 65 million Americans have tried CBD.
But, on Facebook, ads and posts for CBD are practically non-existent. If anything, Facebook has been aggressively cracking down on CBD ads, even going so far as to shut down business accounts entirely if they try to promote Facebook posts involving CBD. In response, some Facebook users are bringing lawsuits against the social media giant, accusing it of deceptive ad practices. And they are fighting back against Facebook in other ways as well. In some cases, they are moving all of their digital advertising over to other social media platforms. And, in other cases, they are running stealth Facebook ad campaigns (e.g. Facebook posts that show photos of CBD products, but do not actually mention them by name) that keep them free and clear of Facebook’s wrath.
Possible explanations for Facebook’s ad crackdown
What’s so confusing about all this, of course, is that Facebook’s rules and regulations do not expressly prohibit ads for CBD (or similar products such as ingestible hemp). Those Facebook users who have had their accounts terminated say that they have studies all of Facebook’s advertising policies and procedures, and not found any reason why CBD ads should be banned. After all, in an era where your local spa is probably advertising CBD treatments in its storefront window, it’s hard to see why Facebook is taking a hard line on CBD ads popping up on digital storefronts.
The answer might have to do with the dubious past history of CBD, which has been linked – for better or worse – to THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. CBD, unlike THC, won’t get you high. Yet, from Facebook’s perspective, there’s simply too much risk involved. CBD is not alcohol, or a prescription drug, or an illegal substance – but it is still not legal worldwide, and Facebook is presumably leaving itself open to lawsuits in other nations if they are seen as promoting hemp, marijuana and CBD-infused products.
Moreover, Facebook has had a rough 18 months, to say the least. The company has been blamed for fake news, Russian trolls, spam bots and the erosion of online privacy. Regulators are taking a tough stance on Facebook, promising to end the recent era of self-regulation. And politicians from both sides of the aisle are using Facebook as a convenient poster boy for everything that is wrong with the web today, especially the loss of personal privacy.
A “new normal” for Facebook?
So is it really any surprise that Facebook is taking a tough stance on CBD? Yes, some of Facebook’s tactics are a bit heavy-handed – such as its worrisome practice of terminating business accounts immediately without any prior notice – but it’s clear that Facebook is running scared these days. Politicians and regulators have already hinted at a future where Facebook might be facing billions of dollars in fines or, even worse, be broken apart into several different parts as part of a sweeping crackdown on digital monopolies.
As a result, this might just be the “new normal” on Facebook. If you’re looking for a freewheeling, anything-goes social media platform, it might be time to look elsewhere.