May 24, 2018

Facebook Bans Foreign Ads On Irish Abortion Referendum

09 May 2018, 07:55 | Rudolph Thomas

The Most Rev William Crean claimed that repealing the Eighth Amendment would make abortion seem morally acceptableMICHAEL MAC SWEENEY

The Most Rev William Crean claimed that repealing the Eighth Amendment would make abortion seem morally acceptable

The change will mean that ads that have been paid for by organisations outside of Ireland will no longer be shown.

The Transparent Referendum Initiative has been tracking online advertising around the vote.

Facebook will no longer accept advertisements from outside Ireland related to the country's May 25 abortion referendum, the USA firm said on Tuesday, in its latest move to boost the transparency of its political advertising.

In April, Irish data protection commissioner Helen Dixon said it was possible that foreign actors could try to sway the referendum.

"Facebook will no longer be accepting ads related to the forthcoming referendum if they are from advertisers based outside of Ireland, " the network said in a statement.

There had been worries that foreign ads could influence the result of the vote.

Our company approach is to build tools to increase transparency around political advertising so that people know who is paying for the ads they are seeing, and to ensure any organisation running a political ad is located in that country.

In April, we hosted an information session for referendum campaign groups on Facebook's advertising and content policies.

However, Facebook insists that it will not be blocking campaigns and advocacy organisations in Ireland from using service providers outside Ireland. The country's abortion laws are among the strictest in the developed world.

Minister of State for Trade, Business and the EU Digital Single Market Pat Breen said that most organisations in Ireland "are sensible" when asked about the lack of prevention of funding from overseas to organisations located in Ireland. Its campaign Co-Director Ailbhe Smyth said: "We view this as a clear recognition by Facebook that external forces with vast resources can have disproportionate yet impactful influence in political campaigns". The problem came from interference in elections in the U.S. and in other areas as well.

The company will soon start requiring political advertisers to be residents in the country where the election is taking place.

"We understand the sensitivity of this campaign and will be working hard to ensure neutrality at all stages", Facebook said in a statement.

"Facebook are always late to the party", said Gavin Sheridan, an Irish social media expert who has been following the digital side of the referendum campaign.

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