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Censored by social media

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In my lifetime, that’s pushing six decades now, I’ve never seen the degree of censorship that we now face in the Western world. Historically, the main perpetrators of censorship have been governments—and government efforts in the EU and US to limit the ability of companies to communicate health claims has been such an example.

In the US, thanks to the  groundbreaking work of lawyer Jonathan Emord, who took the Pearson v. Shalala case to the US Court of Appeals in 1999, structure/function claims (describing the role of a nutrient or ingredient intended to affect the structure or function of the human body) are allowed, along with the now commonplace FDA disclaimer. The First Amendment saved the day.

Without a similar provision for free speech in EU law, Europeans have been less lucky. The EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation has authorized only about 250 health claims, while banning over 2,000 that had until recently been in wide use.

That includes saying anything positive health-wise about antioxidants in berries or glucosamine for joints—despite copious evidence of benefit. Until millions of dollars are raised to run human trials on perfectly healthy subjects, companies must remain mute on these benefits or face criminal prosecution.

That’s how governments can censor what we get to know about things that are good for us. But what about private censorship by companies themselves? This is the new world order—it’s happening already, it’s gathering pace, and it’s social media giants like Facebook that are taking the lead.   

Many of you may know that Facebook is doing its part to try to shut down health fraud, along with cybercrime, abuse and other unsavory communications on its Facebook and Instagram platforms.

You’re probably also aware that, in Facebook’s effort to grow its profits, the only real way of expanding reach is to use promoted posts—in other words paid ads.

All this is part of Facebook’s transition into becoming a huge advertising platform for business. Facebook must now do what’s good for the biggest businesses in the world in order to maximize its benefit to its shareholders.

What’s now happening is that nonprofits like the Alliance for Natural Health have been caught up in this process.

At the ANH, we’ve been using a small proportion of your donations to pay for ads for over a year in our effort to extend our reach and have more impact in line with our mission and vision. But we’ve had our ad account disabled for apparently violating Facebook’s Community Standards, so we can no longer promote posts.

Finding where you’ve violated these Standards isn’t easy, and they won’t tell you (or at least us). The clause on “Regulated Goods” means that Facebook could challenge posts that relate to ingredients or supplements like CBD, an important cannabinoid in hemp, which currently has uncertain legal status both in the US and EU, even where health (or medicinal) claims are not made.

Despite CBD being present in small amounts in hemp oils that have been sold for years, CBD products are now being targeted because they’re being sold in concentrated, supplemental form as extracts where they are perceived to interfere with the sale of prescription drugs, which just happen to be the third-biggest killer in society.

The fact that CBD remains widely on sale in the US and EU is interesting, not least of all because millions are benefiting from its availability, no one is being harmed—and removing it from the market might spark mass protests among the grassroots.

In both the US and EU, authorities are using Big Pharma-protective laws, such as the EU’s novel food law, to argue that CBD supplements are currently illegal.
Another clause refers to Facebook’s approach to “False News.” The policy makes clear it doesn’t remove content it has identified as likely false through its “machine learning model,” in order not to stifle “productive public discourse.” But it does throttle content back, “showing it lower in the News Feed.”

The Community Standards clause on “Misrepresentation” could also be used as a trigger, assuming a very broad reading of the current language. If we are seen to be encouraging people to use non-drug therapies that might persuade them to reduce their dependency on drugs, we could violate the company’s policies by “Mislead[ing] people in an attempt to encourage shares, likes, or clicks.”

Given that we don’t promote any commercial products, that’s not one that would likely fare well in a court of law.

What appear to be common-sense standards in actuality can be arbitrarily applied against anyone Facebook wishes to silence, and they’re now being widely used against natural health interests under the guise of shutting down ‘health fraud.’

Right up there is the issue of vaccine hesitancy, which the World Health Organization has conveniently listed as among the top 10 global health threats.

If you’re paying for promoted posts, are you prepared to continue to support Facebook financially given the platform’s efforts to silence freedom of speech—about drug-free natural health?

What do you think? Start a conversation over on the... WDDTY Community

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