Instagram is full of marijuana. There's no way to know exactly how many of the Facebook-owned photo-sharing utility's 200 million users freely share pictures of buds, blunts, and joints — aside from counting, we suppose — but enough of them do for police to make real-life arrests based off of Instagram posts.
But, these days, Instagram has less marijuana on it than usual. Beginning sometime in the last month, the social network started deactivating cannabis-centric users' accounts. Bay Area-based favorite Coral Reefer saw her account turned off. So did San Francisco-based rapper Berner (though he's back on).
This is an odd move from a Bay Area-based tech darling, and not a welcome development for the burgeoning California marijuana industry.
But the upshot is a Silicon Valley opportunity: A new “Instagram for marijuana” is launching this week in response. Will the #marijuana #nofilter set take to the new social network?
[jump] It's worth noting that marijuana drives loads of Web traffic. On social media, there are countless marijuana-centric accounts with tens of thousands — sometimes hundreds of thousands — of followers. And posts? There could be millions of posts tagged with “#marijuana,” Marijuana.com guessed.
The lesson is that if you want to become an Internet celebrity, you could do a lot worse than to begin posting photos of high-end glassware, beautifully-trimmed buds, and general cannabis lifestyle choices.
This apparently matters little to Instagram. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but according to users who had their accounts deactivated, vague violations of the site's terms of service were cited.
That's what happened to the aforementioned locally based marijuana-loving social media celebrity Coral Reefer (whose Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages are all still up and running). She and several other cannabis industry mainstays, SoMa dispensary Barbary Coast among them, have all had their accounts deleted within the past few weeks.
“I see it as cannabis targeted, but some commenters think partial nudity is the problem,” she told SF Weekly via e-mail. She does on occasion post risque photos, but plenty of buttoned-up pot accounts are gone, too. And many more marijuana-centric accounts are still in business.
It's very easy to report a user on Instagram, and some in the cannabis community think that anti-drug activists are to blame. Either way, “without a statement from instagram I just don't know,” she noted.
The answer for Berner has been to start a new social network just for cannabis.
Social.marijuana.com is up and running and taking new accounts as you read this. That's all well and good, but losing Instagram as a bully pulpit will hurt plenty of dispensaries, glass-makers, and other cannabis industry upstarts as well as established players.
What gives, Instagram?