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Friday, May 1, 2015

Facebook: Supporting "Tobacco Harm" By Banning Paid Political Speech

So along with this graphic I submitted the following text to Facebook as a "boosted post" - this means you pay money to have it shown to more Facebook subscribers.  The text was as follows:

"Vaping Political Action

Last night ---- played host to a meeting of many of Western PA's vape shops at --- in Cheswick, PA.

The purpose of our meeting was to discuss Vaping Advocacy.

Vaping Advocacy is basically the activity of "fighting for our right to vape" through political means.

As many of you know the state of Pennsylvania is proposing a 40% tax increase on "vaping" in this years Pennsylvania budget (June 2015).

We don't want this tax to pass. Not this year. Not next year. Not ever.

And neither should you.

Why? Because vaping works for people who no longer smoke: it helps them to continue not to smoke.

(Many of our customers, many heavy smokers, have not smoked a cigarette in years.)

We, as shop owners, want our legislators to know that taxing vaping will make it harder for people to continue not smoking.

A lot of useful information was exchanged: how the Pennsylvania legislative process works, what can be done to contact our legislators, what shop owners should know about talking with their legislators.

This was a meeting for vaping businesses, but the same ideas apply to you, the "vaping" consumer.

In order for vaping to survive both individual vapers - whether they buy from a shop or on-line - as well as shop owners must become more politically active.

We will be posting more in this in the weeks to come.

If you want to learn more please contact our shops or post here.

Note we are not "advertising" any products of any kind.  The shop, not me personally, sponsored the ad so its promoted under the shop name.  The ad is not about vaping equipment, tobacco, or anything else.  Its about voting, tobacco harm reduction and contacting legislators for the purpose of political change.

As expected the response was the usual:

My ad is apparently "advertising tobacco, cigarettes, or related accessories."

Now this is hard to imagine and, of course, clearly wrong.

Note under "I Vote" it says "Support Politicians Who Support Tobacco Harm Reduction."

So, by banning the ad Facebook apparently believes in what?  Increasing Tobacco Harm?

After all if you ban ads promoting Tobacco Harm Reduction you must, by basic logic, support the opposite.

There are many forms of Tobacco Harm Reduction including NRT (sold without prescription in stores with child-attracting fruit flavors no less).

Apparently Facebook is allowed to limit political speech.  As you can see from Wikipedia there is no such legal right to limit this form of speech.  Clearly this is not hate speech, incitement, false information, or anything else that falls under Constitutionally recognized exceptions to the First Amendment.

How can this be justified by Facebook?

Facebook has pages like this:

Clearly a point of view you may or may not share, but legitimate none-the-less, even if don't support the legalization of pot.

By the reasoning of Facebook Martin Luther King would be denied the right to create a political ad about racial discrimination.  (Perhaps because with a 1950's Facebook racial equality was not yet legal.)

How interesting is this...?

I am calling Facebook out on this.

Its wrong.

Its illegal.

We have a right to use Facebook to organize and discuss political meetings.

From Facebook's own Guidelines on Advertising Policy:
  • Ads promoting blogs or groups that exist to help connect people whose interests are related to these products are allowed as long as the service does not lead to the sale of any tobacco or tobacco-related products. Ads for anti-smoking campaigns, e-books, counseling services for smoking addiction and rehabilitation programs or facilities for smokers are allowed.
  • Acceptable: "Meet with people around the world who have a taste for cigars"
  • Unacceptable: "Buy cigarettes and e-cigarettes here today!"

We (the collective "we") use Facebook every day speaking about vaping.  If I want to pay to promote the notion that vapers vote I see no reason Facebook can or should stop it.

Nor do they have the legal right.

EDIT 1: Though people claim that Facebook can limit whatever they want in terms of posts I have to disagree.  If the post follows their rules I see no reason for it to be blocked.  Since posting this others in vape advocacy have pointed out that their posts (on advocacy) are being blocked as well - though they can get past it by complaining.

Facebook and similar use contractors in foreign (to the US) countries to "censor" (see this link: ) there are others if you google.

There is also much legal activity around what a "carrier" can censor.  (See 1989 Once you get to a certain point, which I think Facebook has with like 1.23 Billion (with a "B") active daily users they are not allowed to have such casual treatment of speech.  Effectively FB becomes like a telephone line where everyone using it has to have reasonable access regardless of what the talk about.  Imagine, for example, if you were talking dirty to your significant other and an operator came on line and said your call had to be disconnected because of obscene content.

Talking about voting for vaping is not obscene content.

EDIT 2: More recent info on "censorship" -

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