Published: Fri, May 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Facebook Is Blocking Foreign Ads Relating to Ireland's Abortion Referendum

Facebook Is Blocking Foreign Ads Relating to Ireland's Abortion Referendum

On Wednesday morning, Google announced the ban on all referendum-related advertisements on its platform, including ads on YouTube and Google Adwords.

Concerns have been raised in recent times about the unregulated nature of online advertising, with the No side having recently been questioned in regards to the validity of their posters. While there are no official figures available as to the spending of foreign actors on ads up until this point, social media had been discussing the spike in online ads anecdotally for the last number of weeks.

" ... one side in this referendum is terrified of losing and wants to prevent voters from being informed", the Irish pro-life groups Save the 8, the Pro-Life Campaign and the Iona Institute said in response.

"Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have chose to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment", a Google spokesperson announced.

Facebook's move is likely to be directly related to this fear: and a fear that if the referendum were defeated, the company would face questions about its role in influencing votes, as it has in the U.S. and UK.

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A referendum should be held on 25 may. "That explains the massive pressure exerted on Google, Facebook, and other platforms to deny advertising space to the NO campaign", it said.

The changes will not impact on content or search results that are returned by Google searches. But pro-life advocates said they have another goal - helping the pro-abortion side.

In a statement, they said: "This decision by Google is not about "concerns about the integrity of elections". The post continued, explaining that banning ads is in the spirit of Irish electoral law, which prohibits campaigns from accepting donations from outside the country.

The company has also previously said it will implement a system of disclosures for ad buyers to make it clear to users who paid for the ad, and that it will be publishing a Transparency Report this summer breaking out election ad purchases.

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