Instagram Closes the Doors on SC Labs and Emerald Cup
Fine Print allows Top Social Platforms to Close Accounts on Major Marijuana Brands
The internet loves marijuana. There are millions of photos and thousands of sites dedicated to cannabis, both medical and recreational. Unfortunately Instagram and its parent company Facebook, don’t share the love. The most recent evidence of this happened at the beginning of July 2016, when Instagram once again deleted the accounts of some very large pot-related companies.
Two of the most high-profile deletions were The Emerald Cup and SC Labs. The Emerald Cup is the world’s largest outdoor medical cannabis competition. SC Labs, a cannabis analysis laboratory, is one of the best recognized cannabis services in the country. The reason this is significant is, especially for SC Labs, these companies are not simply pro-pot sites. SC Labs is a scientific firm that handles a legal substance, and the Emerald Cup is a competitive event that provides grading reviews for, again, a legal substance.
The Terms of Service Agreement
So now lets talk about the fine print that allows these Social Tools to dictate which accounts can and cannot be closed. When cannabis companies sign up for Instagram, Facebook, or almost any other social media site, they sign a Term of Service Agreement (TOS) that says that they will not promote anything illegal. As Instagram points out, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, so they have the right to delete accounts at will.
“Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed,” from Instagram’s Term of Service, accessed August 12, 2016.
Their TOS is a bit problematic at its face. There are a significant number of things that are illegal in some “regions” but not in others. Some prescription medications, guns, knives, even cars and some beverages, are illegal in one country, but are legal in others. It appears that Instagram is not consistently taking down sites that promote weapons or rain barrels (did you know it’s illegal to collect rainwater in the US?), but are attacking the marijuana industry.
“On a personal level, now I don’t have access to the five or six years of history documenting our process, our interactions with the community and the story of our company,” an SC Lab employee told Cannabis Club TV an interest news outlet, reports SFGate.com.
This loss of data can result in the loss of years’ long relationships, advertising and marketing materials and more. The cost to recreate all of this information can be exorbitant. Many of the accounts that were closed had been on Instagram had thousands of hours invested and tens of thousands of followers.
The Community Responds
The cannabis community has responded with a simple solution: niche marijuana-friendly and marijuana-oriented social media sites.
Massroots, Duby, and other sites have popped up in an effort to give cannabis fans and brands a place to share online. Massroots, as of May, 2016, had 900,000 users. While the number is dwarfed by Instagram’s 400 million users, it’s still respectable for a site that has a selective user base and isn’t owned by Facebook.
What we are also seeing is a growing demand for Mobile Apps. Smart dispensaries are learning quickly that if they can capture a customer via a mobile app download, they can then market to that customer in almost any way they want (including push notifications, loyalty clubs, news hubs and more…)
The argument by Facebook and Instagram is that it’s illegal at a federal level, so they can’t allow marijuana pages. However, to date, no record of prosecutions by the Department of Justice of a social media firm for marijuana pages. So this really does beg the question: What is the real motivation behind these account closings? What does Facebook have to gain?
While there are no guarantees, the recent decision by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of US Government to keep marijuana as a Schedule I Drug will probably reinforce the resolve of the big social media firms to keep their sites smoke-free. Smaller social media sites will likely pick up the slack waiting for national legalization. At that point, Facebook will likely buy the one that they want and use it as part of their growing empire.