Policy Changes, Farmers, and MeWe vs. Facebook
Why Many Livestock Owners Seek the Best Social Media Alternatives to Facebook
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Why are thousands of farmers searching for the best social media alternatives to Facebook? And what sparked this mass migration to MeWe groups?
Social media is always changing. Policies can change due to new practices, new aspects of a website, laws, and regulations, or even because of the politics of people in charge. It can sometimes be difficult to tell why changes happen. However, it is very unfortunate when a change seems to hurt more people than it helps.
When Facebook launched the “Marketplace” portion of the social media site, it also had to release policies regulating what could or couldn’t be sold on said Marketplace. Some of these regulations uphold laws such as not allowing the sale of prescription drugs or illegal substances. Others are for the health and safety of people, like the ban against unsafe supplements or explosives. Even others seem to be made to uphold the integrity of Facebook itself, not allowing the sale of digital content which can be easily pirated or forged. Yet, the one policy for which most people cannot find a reasonable explanation is the ban against the sale of live animals of any kind. This ban includes endangered animals as well as the selling of any part of an animal (pelt, fur, etc.).
It appeared to take a little time of smoothing out the interface of the Marketplace before the rules were strictly enforced, but by late 2017, any Marketplace post selling an animal was immediately deleted. However, the Marketplace policies did not apply to people’s personal pages, and many small farmers and breeders were still able to sell livestock within groups or from their business page. That is, until recently.
Earlier this year, Facebook extended the Marketplace policies to all pages, groups, and posts within Facebook. Violation of these policies resulted in posts being deleted and often accounts being suspended. As the new policy was realized, many admins and moderators worked hard to enforce a “no sale” policy within their livestock groups. You see, admins are held accountable for any content on their page, even if page rules are posted but ignored.
When contacted, a Facebook company spokesman stated:
We’ve updated our regulated goods policy to prohibit sales of all live animals between private individuals. This is an update to our existing policy already prohibiting all sales of endangered wildlife and their parts.
As we strive to protect the welfare of animals against illicit trades, we cannot always ensure their safety in a peer-to-peer transaction. We will still allow such sales if posted by brick-and-mortar entities, animal rehoming, and adoption agencies and shelters. We have updated our policies to continue to keep both people and animals safe and will also provide new reporting options on Facebook so that people can report content that violates this policy.
According to Facebook policy, “We do allow businesses that sell other (not endangered) animals from a storefront or website.” However, they will determine those on a case-by-case basis whether they fit into their “brick-and-mortar” business regulations. Shelters and rescue agencies are exempt.
Andrea, a goat owner and breeder, is worried about how these changes are affecting family farms and local breeders. She sells mostly to neighbors and friends, often networking through her friends to find a buyer. Andrea does not want to switch to another site where she cannot do a little background check on a potential buyer before agreeing to a sale. Livestock owners want to know that their animals are going to a good home, and Facebook allowed some vetting to happen. However, for Andrea, that is not the biggest loss from this policy change. She says, “There hasn’t been much research on goats, and not many vets even know much about small ruminants. Facebook groups became mentors where we could go for help even in the middle of the night. You could be sitting up late with a doe in labor and FaceTime someone who walked you through what you needed to do.” When these groups are suspended or permanently deleted because a member violated a policy, all the information and connections are lost forever. Not only that, but Andrea has seen times where a rival group will actually join then make posts that are in violation of page rules and Facebook policy, then turn around and flag that exact post for the violation in order to get the group in trouble.
Bill was the creator of a chicken group that had nearly 100,000 members, called “Chickens, Chickens, Chickens.” He had a very strict policy against selling or rehoming on his page, yet his page was recently suspended. There was no indication of exactly what violated a policy, and even after spending hours going through old posts, the page is still not back online. His business page, which had been vetted by Facebook as an established business, was also deleted days after being vetted.
Amy has a website for selling her goats but has found that buyers are not prone to clicking a link to leave the Facebook website in order to get the information to buy a goat. Even with an established farm website, Amy is very hesitant to post about goats for sale because she does not want to risk losing her page and the contacts which she has there. Also, the way public posts can be seen by friends of friends when the friend interacts helps bring new potential buyers in contact with the seller. Other social media alternatives or buy/sell sites do not have this particular value. With the drop in buyers because of the new Facebook policy, Amy is looking to take extra kids to the auction/meat market rather than finding them good homes as a pet or part of a home dairy. In reference to the policy against the sale of animals, Amy says, “I think there is a difference between hobby farmers/small farmers/breeders of livestock … and puppy/kitty mills. To have [Facebook] treat all animal sales the same is crazy.”
Marie, a teacher and farm owner, is less concerned about the effects of policy enforcement. While it is definitely changing how she markets, Marie is already making plans and forging her way to new social media and selling options. As an administrator for several Facebook pages, she has carefully made sure that there were no sales posts that could possibly flag those pages filled with priceless information. She is directing traffic off the Facebook website to her business site for sales, which is what Facebook seems to want to happen anyway. She has already begun setting up pages on MeWe, FacePlay, and Goatzz. MeWe and FacePlay are new social networking sites while Goatzz connects goat associations with members and includes a classifieds section. Marie says, “I’ve always believed that crises in business can present an opportunity to reorganize and renew an organization. The Facebook groups were an easy way to market goats, but by focusing on them I was not paying attention to other possibilities. I’m excited to see how this next chapter in my business develops.”
It would seem that it is time for livestock buyers and sellers alike to look at other options and find the best social media alternatives to Facebook. A large number of small farmers especially are moving to MeWe, a relatively new social media website that is about four years old. It boasts of no ads, data-mining, political bias, or newsfeed manipulation. “That means 100% of your page followers or group members on MeWe see 100% of your posts, in the order you post them.” There are many features on MeWe social media, and so far they allow the selling of animals and livestock. MeWe’s CEO, Mark Weinstein, says: “What’s happening on social media today would make George Orwell dizzy. The rampant censorship knows no bounds and is interfering with countless conversations between individuals and communities … It is the role of social media sites to keep bad actors out, but it is definitely not the role of social media to play ‘Big Brother.’” For those who want to move away from social media in general, there are many websites that offer classifieds sections specifically for livestock.
With mass migrations to other social networking and sales sites, perhaps Facebook will rethink their policies. Even if they don’t, they make the rules and we must follow or leave. My biggest worry is that the buyers and small hobbyist farmers won’t realize what is happening. I hope to spread awareness so that everyone knows that from now on, they must search in different avenues when they are looking for a new chicken, goat, or any other live animal.