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Abe Gray, co-founder of Start The Conversation, said informed discussion was crucial in the lead-up to a referendum on ...

Cannabis reform lobbyists accuse Facebook of stubbing out debate

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Abe Gray, co-founder of Start The Conversation, said informed discussion was crucial in the lead-up to a referendum on cannabis.

Social media giant Facebook is accused of stifling the debate on New Zealand’s cannabis laws by banning ads from a pro-reform group.

Start The Conversation received a notice from Facebook saying its ad account status had been disabled.

The move prevents the group from paying to promote or “boost” its posts, and therefore reach a wider audience.

An automatic message sent by Facebook attributed  it to unusual activity on its page but Start The Conversation co-founder Abe Gray alleges the group is a victim of the corporate giant’s strict anti-cannabis stance.

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“What we’re trying to do is get a discussion happening around the issue. Politicians continually say the public isn’t ready for cannabis reform, but if the public isn’t allowed to discuss it, how do we know we’re not ready? Facebook’s actions prevent that discussion,” Gray says.

Gray says it spent thousands of dollars advertising on Facebook during the 2017 general election, with no issues.

Start the Conversation co-founder Jin An Hirst says it is crucial New Zealanders can engage in an informed debate on cannabis ahead of a signalled referendum in either 2019 or 2020.

Hirst says she sought an explanation from Facebook but is yet to receive a reply. 

Facebook’s policy is not to promote the sale or use of illegal drugs, but says drug rehabilitation support groups are fine. 

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell says he had experienced similar ‘unusual activity’ messages appear on his organisation’s Facebook account but dismissed the idea Facebook was trying to shut down debate.

“It’s got to be something else….there’s not going to be a conspiracy.”

Facebook didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Start the Conversation co-founder Jin An Hirst said she's waiting for an explanation as to why Facebook has stopped the ...

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Start the Conversation co-founder Jin An Hirst said she’s waiting for an explanation as to why Facebook has stopped the group advertising on its site.


 – Sunday Star Times

Full story is available here.

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