The Oversight Board has overturned a decision by Meta to remove a post discussing a traditional non-medical drug used in Brazil, ayahuasca. The board ordered the post to be reinstated.
In July, a spiritual school in Brazil posted about ayahuasca on its Instagram account. Ayahuasca is a plant-based brew containing psychoactive properties that is used for religious and traditional ceremonies by indegenous tribes in Brazil.
The post was flagged for review by Instagram’s automated moderation systems. A human review removed it.
The post has since been reviewed by the Oversight Board, Meta’s “supreme court,” who found that it did not violate Instagram’s Community Standards.
Meta removed the post because ayahuasca is a non-medical drug, and “the user described ayahuasca with a heart emoji, referred to it as ‘medicine,’ and stated that it ‘can help you.’”
Facebook’s guidelines prohibit content that promotes non-medical drugs. However, Instagram does not have such a rule. Instagram’s guidelines only ban the sale or purchase of illegal and prescription drugs.
The Board noted that Meta applies Facebook’s Community Standards on Instagram, without telling users it does so. Additionally, Meta did not tell the user the rules they violated.
The Board also did not agree with the removal of the content for the purpose of protecting public health. The post mostly discussed the usage of ayahuasca in a religious context and did not directly have potential for causing harm. Additionally, the user did not include instructions on how to use ayahuasca or tell users how to find it.
The Board also ruled that removing the post contradicted the company’s commitment to human rights.
The Board recommended that Meta updates its policies on regulated goods to allow users to positively discuss religious or traditional uses of non-medical drugs that “have a recognized traditional or religious use.”