You may have noticed – in fact we know some of you have noticed, because you’ve been in touch with us about it – that Friday 12th of January 2018, our Instagram account was disabled. There was no warning whatsoever. Not a hint nor a suspicion that we, and you, were about to lose access to all of our carefully curated Instagram photos.
At first, our social media manager thought that our account had been hacked, or that there was a problem with the platform of the social media photo sharing giant. It was only when he tried to log in from his phone that a notification appeared. Apparently, we have violated Instagram’s community guidelines.
Indicas and sativas, buds and hash
But how? We haven’t shown nudity or violence. We haven’t bought likes or followers (we don’t need to, thanks to our fantastic fanbase – thanks folks!). We haven’t spammed anyone. As far as we know, we’ve followed all the Instagram Community Guidelines, up to and including posting content for a diverse audience – we’ve featured photos of indicas and sativas, buds and hash…
Joking aside, we suspect that that’s the problem. We’ve encountered problems with photos of buds on Facebook being deleted without warning, and indications from various sources that “explicit” bud shots, especially when coupled with a discount code or other sales text, will be red-flagged and removed. Instagram disabling our account is a far more radical step than Facebook (who bought, and monetised, Instagram in 2012) removing some of our content. We’re working hard on getting the Sensi Seeds Instagram account back. Tips on how to do this are mainly anecdotal and vague, but we’re by no means the only people that this has ever happened to.
Both the disabling of an account, and the appeal process to have it enabled again, seem to be automated. As with the Facebook incident, although we really don’t like the idea that there might be competitors out there trying to take us ‘off the air’, enough reports filed and our account could well have been disabled without a pair of human eyes ever looking at it. Not only that, but “Even if you or someone you know doesn’t have an Instagram account, you can still file a report.”, according to the Community Guidelines. It’s also possible that someone (whether inside or outside Instagram) has mistaken us selling cannabis seeds for selling actual cannabis, which would indeed be against the terms and conditions.
Is there anybody out there?
Instagram also claims that “We have a global team that reviews these reports and works as quickly as possible to remove content that doesn’t meet our guidelines.” However, there is nothing about a team also working to reinstate accounts that have been wrongly suspended. Going by the experiences of other people, it’s difficult to attract the attention of a human being. There is even the rumour of a “gray market of employees providing unofficial Instagram support services”, for those with the money to pay for it.
Instagram customer service is notoriously bad at responding to multiple forms of communication. There are numerous reports of multiple emails going unanswered. Our social media manager has been trying various methods of getting in touch with them for the past week, but they have yet to give any kind of response.
Tweets, but no replies
A quick glance at the ‘Tweets and Replies’ section of their Twitter feed shows that Instagram do tweet, but don’t reply. Most of the replies to Instagram’s own tweets are, in descending order of volume: people asking for customer support, people expressing their extreme frustration (to put it politely) with the total lack of customer support, people complaining about the new algorithm, and people requesting the return of the Gingham filter. Instagram hasn’t responded to a single one. If you want to tweet them and let them know you’d like to see the Sensi Seeds Instagram account back up and running, please do – but it may never be acknowledged by the social media department of a company whose business is social media. Hashtag “irony”.
Being a cannabis business is notoriously fraught with advertising difficulties, from Dutch coffeeshops not being allowed to display pictures of cannabis to Canadian dispensaries who have had their Instagram accounts deleted. Even though our business is seeds, not their end product, we still can’t advertise on Instagram. This means we don’t (directly) create revenue for them, which means we won’t receive verification, nor an account manager – the lack of human contact is suddenly reversed for companies who can, and do, advertise, since they are granted an actual person to help them run their account and thereby generate more income for Instagram.
There’s a double standard at play here somewhere too. The Sensi Seeds Instagram is a legitimate social media channel for a legitimate company selling a legitimate product which isn’t a drug and therefore should be exempt from the “Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed” clause in the Community Guidelines. Leafly, Weedmaps, and grandfather of all cannabis magazines High Times, are still happily posting pictures of cannabis – plants, buds, and in the latter’s case, joints the size of a drainpipe – without retribution. High Times and Weedmaps even have the coveted blue tick of verification. Would it be too cynical to suggest that the difference between safety and risk, verification and deletion, is how much money one funnels into Instagram?
Let us know what you think in the comments below, and stay tuned for updates on the status of our Instagram account.