Facebook has removed the Tasmanian Hemp Association's (THA) ability to promote and advertise its products through the social media platform, citing that the products being sold are 'illegal products or services' and deeming the company's name 'illegal.' Supposedly, the products being sold and the word hemp in the Tasmania Hemp Associations' name does not comply with facebooks advertising policies and has been flagged as 'illegal.'
The Hemp Association in Tasmania is a government-funded group headed by Andi Lucas. This issue was brought to light when the association created an advert to promote their annual Community Education Day and found that they were not allowed to advertise due to Facebook deeming the information 'illegal'.
Clearly causing much upset throughout the hemp community, Ms. Lucas of the THA began researching the advertising ban where they were 'told were effectively selling a drug product, which is completely untrue'.
The Tasmanian Hemp Association focuses on spreading awareness around hemp and its uses and how it differs entirely from the illegal cannabis plant.
Ms. Lucas explained that 'hemp is a plant used by humans to make food, for fibre, its sold in supermarkets, people have it in their smoothies, they build houses out of it, they wear t-shirts out of it', effectively debunking their 'illegality' surrounding the advertising being done by the Tasmanian Hemp Association.
Unfortunately, due to the restriction and ban allowed on advertising, the THA's education day is now seeing ticket sales down around 70% compared to other years, where they could advertise throughout various social media platforms, including Facebook.
Ms. Lucas explained the entire point behind the education day is to 'educate people to the difference between hemp and marijuana, so, ironically, Facebook has made the same mistake'.
ABC requested comment from META surrounding this issue raised by THA, and a spokesperson claimed that the error has now been fixed, and the THA can now post their advertisements. However, Ms. Lucas stated that this is false, and the THA still face issues posting their ADs.
Similarly, here at Margaret River Hemp Co, we are also facing issues surrounding advertising and our online Facebook store;
"The peak of hypocrisy was when they removed our hemp socks from our FB store, let alone be allowed to advertise anything".
Something as simple as hemp fibre socks that substantially benefit customers and the planet being flagged as "illegal products" is outrageous.
One of the most significant issues any hemp company like THA faces is the algorithm on social media and other platforms. Unfortunately, many algorithms flag the word 'hemp' as an illegal good or service. Facebook is particularly sensitive to this, such as in the case of the Tasmanian Hemp Association, but the problem can also be seen on google.
Unfortunately, this can often lead to hemp-based products being flagged as illegal goods, even clothing like hemp t-shirts and hemp socks. This can be seen in cases such as the company Hemp Co which was shadowbanned for advertising hemp socks.
Georgina Wilkinson, founder of Margaret River Hemp co and Co-founder of Hemp Home Australia and Margaret River Hemp Processing.
Margaret River Hemp Co founder Georgina Wilkinson, who is a clear and vocal advocate in the hemp sector, had the following comment to make;
"We are facing ridiculous and outdated issues such as an insurance company refusing to insure us for public liabilities at trade shows around Australia, leaving us to swap to another company, while no reasons are ever given for blocking ethical business".
Many of these algorithms and other issues facing hemp-based companies are outdated beliefs and poor business practices for the companies involved, effectively banning or attempting to stop the sale of hemp-based goods, which are perfectly legal worldwide.
James Vosper, president of the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance as well as a member of the NSW Industrial Hemp Association, is another big advocate for the positive uses and benefits of hemp products. Outraged with what has been going on, Mr. Vosper explains his frustration;
'If a product is legal, why can't it be advertised? Hemp has a vast amount of benefits, and many of those benefits are being blocked and banned from the public.
The issue of hemp being incorrectly flagged as an illegal good is a reoccurring issue worldwide. As a result, companies selling hemp-based products face being shadow banned, unallowed to advertise, or being banned from selling products on legal platforms.
Bronwyn Blake of Vasse Valley Hemp Farm had this to say “Despite global legalisation of a wide range of cannabis-based products, hemp businesses are still battling the outdated policies of large, international corporations. Vasse valley Hemp farm frequently comes up against large corporations freezing accounts, or rejecting advertisements stating that the company is violating their policies.”
Michelle Crain of Hemp Health and Innovation Expo who runs regular Australian-wide events that focus on spreading market awareness surrounding hemp. Ms. Crain joins in on the topic at hand, sharing some first-hand experience covering the difficulties hemp-based companies and platforms face;
'Marketing is key to an industry's growth. Venues have stipulated that no cannabis wording or logos are to be used, and this is a demand if you wish to hire the event'.
Michelle Crain efficiently gained over 23k followers on social media between 2016 and 2018, raising awareness around hemp. However, she has yet to gain many since due to the shadow banning and advertising restrictions placed on her social media due to the use of hemp.
This issue is not just being faced here in Australia. Platforms and companies worldwide that are selling hemp-based products or attempting to spread awareness and correct information surrounding hemp are facing tremendous issues. How can any company expect to grow and reach its potential when advertising is banned - a pivotal development component?
The incorrect banning and deeming of hemp as 'illegal' is an entirely outdated concept that is damaging to companies worldwide. If you want to hear a little more from Andi Lucas of the THA, you can follow this link to where she spoke to ABC news and gave more insight into THA's difficulties with META - ABC news - Tasmanian Hemp Association's advertising issue with META.