Facebook Should Stop Censoring Marijuana Legalization Campaign Ads

Facebook is facing down another embarrassing episode of censorship this week after refusing to show ads
submitted by the Just Say Now marijuana legalization campaign. The gag
is an important reminder that social networks like Facebook - while
useful, interesting, and pretty - are "walled gardens" with overseers
whose interests can overwrite free speech, open communication, and in
this case, essential political debate. (In this they have something in common with Apple.)

Most recently, Facebook was caught censoring mentions of Power.com,
an online tool designed to help users collect their information from
Facebook to facilitate migration to other social networks. To this day,
users are still blocked from sending messages or posting status updates
containing the word "Power.com," preventing users from spreading the
word about a convenient way to "make the move" to Orkut, or LinkedIn, or
any other social networking service that may crop up to compete. The
block even stopped law professor Eric Goldman from commenting on Facebook's lawsuit against Power.com (Disclosure: EFF filed an amicus brief in support of Power in that case).

Facebook's censorship for anticompetitive reasons is petty and lame
to be sure, but silencing Just Say Now's marijuana legalization ad
campaign is even worse. Voters in various districts nationwide will have
to make important political decisions about marijuana this year (California's Proposition 19
is one example). Facebook's decision, reportedly an attempt to be
consistent with its ad policies restricting smoking and/or
marijuana-related content, is instead primarily silencing an important,
motivated voice in a politically significant debate.

Facebook should lift the ban and show Just Say Now's political ads.
For better or worse, Facebook has become a important means of
communication and organization for candidates and political campaigns.
In this role, Facebook functions best as a neutral platform, hosting the
debate without entering it. Whether or not Facebook wants to restrict
depictions of smoking in commercial ads, it should not prohibit the open
and robust political debate central to the value and promise of the

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