@ImCannaBess started a movement to protest the Instagram practice of deleting cannabis-related accounts without warning. Did it make a difference?
Web pages, social media accounts and the subsequent connections are the bricks and mortar of online businesses. Any blogger would tell you that. So when you wake up in the morning to find it “all up in flames”, you have every right to be incensed. Bess Byers, a cannabis photographer with over 90,000 followers on Instagram has been thrice unlucky to find her account shut down with no prior warning. She had enough and started #CannabisBlackOutDay (October 6, 2018).
Bess (@imcannabess) filed for a series of business appeals to have her account reinstated but to no avail. She believes that it was the emotional guilt tripping by her followers on Instagram that did it for her. Finally she was allowed back in, with the flimsy excuse that her account had been deactivated erroneously. Not only did she lose time and business, she also failed to provide metrics for clients who advertise on her page. Putting this rage into some positivity, Bess decided to mobilize the cannabis community to speak up about this unwarranted random deactivation of accounts by Instagram.
The approach she took was to have a cannabis blackout day. Cannabis enthusiasts would desist from interacting with the Facebook owned photo platform in any way; no posting, no messaging, no scrolling no checking. All that was allowed was to post a black page with your brand and “Cannabis blackout “emblazoned across the page. The date was set for October 6th 2018, which also happened to be the 8th anniversary of Instagram. And the day came, and went.
Instagram Gives No Response
This being October 9th, 3 days later, Instagram has not even publicly responded to this move by @imcannabess and the larger cannabis community standing in solidarity. But Bess had seen this coming, citing that she would not be holding her breath. The reason for conducting this campaign was to prove that the cannabis community provided significant engagement on IG. And true to this prediction, cannabis brands such as Sour Diesel, Herb Elements and Canna Smack were among the many who took part in the activity.
Other cannabis bloggers, such as Nikole Trickler, threw their weight behind Bess Byers. But, looking at the metrics, it could be that this was just a drop in the ocean for this social media magnate. With Bess Byers 90,000 followers, add Ladies of paradise 34,000 followers and Nikole Tricklers 69,000 you will arrive at around 200,000. RxLeaf also supported #imCannaBess with our 300,000+ followers. But, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
Given that the platform has 500 million actives a day, it would take a loss of 5 million actives to appreciate a 1% decline in the daily activity. Even if the cannabis community managed to garner a loss of 1 million actives on that day, it would still fall far below target. And that probably explains why Instagram has not even bothered to respond to these mini seismic waves.
Is it Effective to Have #CannabisBlackOutDay?
The role of social media cannot be overstated when it comes to mobilizing for social change. Campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter have gained a lot of mileage by being social media relevant as social media users are able to show their support with just the click of a button or a repost. It has brought incredible awareness to the level of racism that people of color face on a daily basis. Alternatively, entire careers and personal lives can be brought down with the flip of a hashtag. Just ask #PermitPatty and #BBQBecky.
So, what would have happened if the entire cannabis community had stood behind Canna Bess? And why didn’t they? These are questions that, unfortunately, currently lack an answer.
Why is Instagram Randomly Deleting Cannabis Accounts?
Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 ‘drug’, making it illegal under federal law. Therefore, it is within the responsibilities of social media companies to restrict the promotion or sale of prohibited products. Users have to abide by the rules and regulations and adhere to the set code of conduct. Actually, with the exception of Linkedin, no social media platform allows the sale of cannabis related products. However, Instagram allows for cannabis related content on its platform. It does, however, prohibit sales.
Stephanie Noon, brand communication specialist for Instagram (in speaking to The Straight) stated that the company allowed for cannabis advocacy on its platform, as much as they prohibited direct sales.
“Instagram does not allow content that promotes the sale of marijuana regardless of state or country. Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, web addresses or street addresses. We do allow marijuana advocacy content as long as it is not promoting the sale of the drug. Dispensaries can promote the use and federal legalization of [cannabis]. This is provided they do not promote its sale or provide contact information to their store.”
But unfortunately, accounts are still targeted and shut down, even with such clear statements.
The Impact of Cannabis Black Out Day
Cannabis Blackout Day may not have reached as many as it set out to do, all is not lost. This was a display of solidarity for the cannabis community. It is for the “marginalized” groups to mobilize support and push back against social media injustices. The idea is not to sit back and keep appealing to have “our accounts reinstated.” That will be an exercise in futility. It is more productive to work together to speak up for change, and the Cannabis Blackout Day could be the inklings of a new era of solidarity in pushing for social change in the acceptance of cannabis.