Facebook’s community standards are clear when it comes to regulated goods: You can’t sell or buy non-medical drugs on the platform, and this of course includes marijuana. But the explosion of Animal Crossing: New Horizons means there’s now a bevy of people talking about weeds — as in, the pesky plant — and this is apparently setting off Facebook’s safety measures.
New Horizons places players on a deserted island which is initially overrun with weeds. Players can pluck these weeds if they want, though some prefer to keep them on their grounds to achieve a more natural look. Weeds can also be used to craft items, and can be sold to specific vendors for a profit, such as Leif the sloth. Some fans have even built businesses around weeding and gardening for other players.
All of this to say, if you’re playing Animal Crossing at all, you may want to use the word “weed” while chatting about the game with fellow island representatives — it’s a basic part of the game. But on Facebook, talking about Animal Crossing weeds may prove to be a problem.
Two different Animal Crossing groups on the platform have recently issued PSAs to their communities over what can be discussed within the forum. A private group in the U.K. with over 34,000 members, for example, has asked users to stop using the word “weed” or “trade” in posts, because Facebook is allegedly deleting those uploads, one group admin tells Polygon.
“They must think we’re running narcotics,” a group admin says in the announcement post, before suggesting alternative names people could use for the plant.
Facebook did not respond to request for comment in time for press. However, in the comments section for the group announcement, an administrator for the group shared a screenshot of the warning the platform allegedly served them over breaches of community standards, which they say is related to posts discussing weeds.
An admin for the U.K. group shared a different screenshot with Polygon where Facebook flagged four different posts in the forum about weeds, the plant, before warning the group that such breaches could get the group “disabled.”
Facebook says that it took down two posts in error, which have since been restored.
“We are deleting any posts that contain the W plant name,” an admin says in the announcement post for the new rule change.
Apparently, this is not an isolated issue — other Animal Crossing Facebook groups are reporting the same phenomenon on social media.
An Animal Crossing facebook group I'm in is risking to be shut down because facebook thinks people are openly selling weed..... pic.twitter.com/bxLA93ylWo— Sarah L. Fossheim (@liatrisbian) May 2, 2020
According to a Facebook blog post about the platform’s practices, the social media platform issues “strikes” against offenders who break the rules. “And when it comes to Pages, we hold both the entire Page and the person who posted the content accountable,” the post reads. If a page gets enough strikes, it is unpublished from the platform. This is likely why admins are now resorting to deleting posts containing the words “weeds” before Facebook flags it — they don’t want to lose their community over a misunderstanding.
Various unconfirmed reports, both in threads discussing this issue on Facebook and other social media posts, say that the platform also does not like it when users discuss a villager named Molly. Molly is a duck and a fan favorite, so it’s not unusual to see people talking about giving her away, trading her, or selling her for in-game money so that she may appear on other islands. An administrator for the U.K. Animal Crossing group tells Polygon that the platform has deleted one post about Molly the villager on their page. If true, then this means that Facebook thinks that players are talking about buying or selling MDMA, rather than playing what is possibly the most wholesome game on earth.
Update (May 5): This story has been updated with information from Facebook.
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