We spoke with Canadian cannabis publication Grow about our shadow ban on Instagram and Facebook. It appears that even though marijuana was legalized in Canada on October 2018, our Vancouver based business was being penalized for sharing images of marijuana, as part of our campaign for Elevate Hemp Hand Lotion. It’s been frustrating, as we weren’t able to promote any ads on these social media platforms – despite not actually promoting or selling any marijuana products.

This shadow ban is baffling, as we saw similar products from larger brands like Herbivore who’d were selling similar hempseed based products as ours, and were able to promote these products through social media advertising efforts.

It really hinders a brand’s ability to grow on social media, and attract more eyes to our messaging and products when our content is unable to be shared for absolutely no reason. We spoke with Peter Nolan Smith at Grow about our frustrations, and learned that we aren’t the only ones experiencing shadow bans, in this murky post-legalization mess.

Below is a condensed version of our feature in Grow – read the entire article here

Vellum Wellness is a BC-based business that sells essential oils, skin creams and other wellness products and accessories. Christina and Sarah Kaur, the business’ co-founders, were surprised to find that their account on Instagram has been flagged, and has been unable to promote their products through the platform ever since. The reason given was that Vellum’s account was promoting drug use, which is odd because Vellum doesn’t market or sell any cannabis products.

“We’re finding it so surprising that the ads that have nothing to do with marijuana at all still get denied,” Sarah Kaur told Grow, during a phone interview. “We’ve popped them on another account and almost immediately they’re approved and we’re looking at it like it’s the exact same ad.”

Instagram does offer an appeals process, though this typically offers no way to actually connect with a human representative.

“And we’ve appealed it and our appeals have gone unanswered, so definitely as a new brand finding it very frustrating,” said Kaur. “We’ll meet with retailers to expand our business and we get the question, ‘why do we have more followers than you,’ ‘what’s going on in your Instagram account?’

“Do we explain that our account has been flagged?”

The potential cause of the problem could be a handful of images they once shared to the account, paying homage to the human hand.

“We were formulating our first product which was a hand lotion we wanted to just pay homage to hands and share all the different things that our hands do for us,” says Kaur.

“We were sharing a lot of art from traditional sculpture and paintings, digital art and gifs, anything that caught our eye as an interesting subject matter to do with hands, tagging different artist.”

Some of these images contained cannabis.

“That could be a hand rolling up a joint, or it was like a gif from Trailer Park Boys of someone smoking a joint. We counted it out and it works out to about 7% of those 600 images had some sort of marijuana.”

“Its just frustrating with this digital age, followers are collateral.”

Grow reached out to Instagram for comment, but have received no response by time of publication.