More heat for Facebook over Prop. 19 ads

The national Libertarian Party today joined the chorus of those complaining that Facebook has banned ads advocating for marijuana legalization.

facebook_adThe party says the Palo Alto-based social networking giant sent a July 23 e-mail – eight days after Facebook had notified the party that the ad had been accepted – saying that “We do not allow ads for marijuana or political ads for the promotion of marijuana.”

The party argues its ad isn’t intended to promote marijuana itself, but rather to take a position on the high-profile political issue of legalization, as embodied by Proposition 19 on California’s ballot this November.

“Whether or not the folks at Facebook like marijuana, we think they should end their ridiculous censorship of our ad, which expresses the Libertarian position on a political issue of interest to many people,” Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict said in a news release. “We recognize Facebook’s right to control their content and censor whoever they want. But we’re also exercising our First Amendment right to complain about their bad decision, and to alert other consumers to put pressure on them.”

Facebook also has revoked approval of similar ads from other groups, including Just Say Now and the District of Columbia Patients’ Cooperative.

It’s not as if the marijuana legalization debate is completely banned from Facebook; the “Yes on 19: Control & Tax Cannabis 2010” page as of today has 157,064 people who “like” it, while “Public Safety First,” the main coalition opposing the measure, has 535 “likes.”

Facebook spokeswoman Annie Ta this morning explained that “(l)ike many content services, we have different policies for our paid and free services. Our advertising policies prohibit the paid promotion of illegal content, and when we find this, we take action as necessary.”

“We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others,” she continued. “Our team has worked with ‘Just Say Now’ directly and explained our policies in depth. We’d like to reiterate that ‘Just Say Now’ can promote their campaign and petition through Facebook Ads as long as they use another image.”

But it was actually the Libertarian Party’s ad, pictured above, that I’d inquired about, so I asked again about that one specifically. “We don’t allow any images of drugs, drug paraphernalia, or tobacco in ad images on Facebook,” Ta replied. “The Libertarian Party can continue to advertise on Facebook using a different image.”

So talking about marijuana legalization is OK, but depicting a leaf is out of bounds.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • This head-up-ass stance by Facebook is extremely hypocritical if all the drug use bragged about by its founders and as touted in the upcoming movie is any indication.

  • John W

    Any bets on whether the founder and CEO of Facebook smoke weed?