Still under fire from the 2016 Election, Facebook censors “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed”, a feature documentary film attempting to run a Get Out The Vote ad, claiming the film “has not been authorized.”
I helped host the Mary Janes: Women of Weed premiere in Portland, Oregon last spring and it is an incredible film about women in the cannabis movement and industry. It is just that, an independent documentary...not a sale or service or anything that even touches the cannabis plant. You can imagine my surprise when Facebook blocked my ad that we tried to run to help promote the film's premiere, and never would approve it for circulation. The producer of the film is now having this same issue with Facebook. When is this going to stop? This goes directly against our freedom of speech.
[Denver, CO], November 7, 2018 – “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed" is a documentary about women leading the cannabis industry, and so much more. The film asks big questions about corporate responsibility and ending the War on Drugs, the Prison-Industrial Complex and the destructive domination of Big Pharma. It has garnered "Best Documentary" and "Visionary" awards on the festival circuit and been featured in Variety, The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Forbes, NBC, and ABC. The documentary is now available for theatrical and educational screenings, yet it's being blocked on Facebook.
Facebook’s Community Guidelines state they:
“prohibit the use of Facebook to facilitate or organize criminal activity that causes physical harm to people, businesses or animals, or financial damage to people or businesses. We work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety. We also prohibit you from celebrating any crimes you’ve committed. We do, however, allow people to debate or advocate for the legality of criminal activities, as well as address them in a humorous or satirical way.” (emphasis added)
This is where "Mary Janes: The Women of Weed" comes in. The documentary film's goal is to educate film audiences about cannabis legalization and debate the federal drug policy. The film isn't selling a federally illegal substance or promoting a criminal activity that could cause harm; it's a first-hand account of the Director's journey to meet female entrepreneurs leading the fastest growing industry in North America.
Filmmaker Windy Borman explains, "Facebook is happy to accept our ad dollars when we tag a celebrity even when we use a quote about their cannabis use. What did they found offensive on November 6, 2018? We tried to boost a Get Out The Vote ad featuring women from the Suffragette Movement."
"Voting was the largest media story for weeks and we were censored despite Facebook's policy stating ‘advocacy or awareness ads are allowed,'" says Borman.
"The censorship ‘Mary Janes' experienced while running a get out the vote message is the same discriminatory enforcement thousands of advocates, educators, and journalists face every day," says Lauren Gibbs, Founder and President of Rise Above Social Strategies, which works with non-profits and cannabis clients. "Despite full compliance with Facebook's stated guidelines, multiple non-profit advocacy organizations and at least one government regulatory agency have been ‘shadow blocked' so that they cannot appear in search results. A public policy forum in Canada was prevented from promoting their event. Individual advocates regularly deal with account shutdowns, and all live in fear of losing their cultivated communities. There are countless instances of Facebook censoring those that are entirely in compliance with the stated community guidelines. There is no excuse for such biased and haphazard enforcement and of their own rules."
Shabnam Malek and Amanda Conley of Brand & Branch LLP, an Oakland-based cannabis-focused law firm said, “We are gravely concerned about Facebook's censorship of content which seeks to peacefully educate and advocate for the reform of cannabis laws, and shed light on states’ cannabis legalization efforts. Facebook's censorship of the promotion of ‘Mary Janes: The Women of Weed’ on the grounds the film promotes ‘illegal activity’ is irrational, arbitrary, and betrays its own terms of service. Facebook's terms specifically permit its users to ‘debate or advocate for the legality of criminal activities.’ Educational and advocacy content as portrayed within the film complies with Facebook's terms. We expect Facebook to abide by its own terms — particularly where, as here, it seeks to enforce those very terms against its users.”
This isn't the first time Facebook has censored "Mary Janes: The Women of Weed." On October 17, 2018, Facebook blocked the film from congratulating Canada on its cannabis liberation day.
In October 2017, it did not allow the film to promote its World Premiere at film festivals in California and New York. Only after the press contacted Facebook's Media Office did they allow the ad—weeks after the World Premiere, which cost the film distribution offers.
In 2016, Facebook blocked the film from promoting its crowdfunding campaign. After multiple appeals throughout the three-week campaign, Facebook finally approved an advertising boost of the film's teaser video—the day after the campaign ended—costing the film untold investments and donations.
"Women won the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment,” says Borman. “The suffragists put their lives on the line so that women could vote today. However, when we try to remind voters of this history, we are told we ‘have not been authorized’' even though Facebook was publicly encouraging Page owners to show that we voted. It is an insult to women and democracy at a time when both are already under attack."
"Facebook's haphazard implementation of their community guidelines is constantly handicapping the legalization movement. It is high time for Zuckerberg and company to stop enforcing prohibition," says Gibbs.
"Cannabis was on the ballot in four states. Voters have questions and they want answers. I made this documentary film to enable this conversation," says Borman. "The bigger issue is ‘Mary Janes' is ultimately a film about corporate responsibility. It focuses on three core values: gender parity, social justice, and environmental sustainability. It just so happens that the industry that leads in all three of these areas is cannabis."
About MARY JANES: THE WOMEN OF WEED:
Women are changing the face of today's fastest growing industry - cannabis. Join filmmaker Windy Borman as she explores the movement to end marijuana prohibition, her relationship to the plant, and the stereotypes surrounding it. Through a series of empowering and educational interviews with a broad diversity of women leading the industry today, Windy's assumptions are transformed as she discovers cannabis liberation intersects with the most urgent social justice issues of our time. She learns how this green revolution has significant effects on environmental sustainability, ending the War on Drugs and the Prison-Industrial Complex, and the destructive domination of Big Pharma.
About Producer / Writer / Director Windy Borman
Windy Borman, MST, is a multi-award-winning film Director and Producer, as well as the founder of DVA Productions. Her recent projects include directing and producing the 10-time award-winning film, “The Eyes of Thailand” (narrated by Ashley Judd), and producing “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia”, which premiered at Sundance and on HBO. Other credits include producing performances for Dr. Maya Angelou and Margaret Cho, directing “The Vagina Monologues”, and writing for Kindland, Takepart.com and Indiewire: Women andHollywood.