Face-book Bans Overseas Advertisers for Ireland Abortion Referendum


Facebook has said it will block ads relating to Ireland's forthcoming referendum on abortion that do not originate from advertisers inside the country. 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".

On May 25, Ireland will hold a national referendum on whether to retain or repeal the eighth amendment to its constitution, which recognizes the right to life of unborn children and guarantees them protection under the law.

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

However, this action did not extend to blocking ads simply because they had been placed by foreign organisations.

Previously, Facebook launched a "view ads" feature in Ireland on 25 April, enabling users to see every ad that any advertiser is running on the platform in Ireland at the same time.

The vote has drawn global attention and last month Helen Dixon, the Irish data protection commissioner, said it was possible that foreign actors could try to tilt the outcome.

US-based anti-abortion groups are among those who have bought online adverts in Ireland during the campaign.

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'We feel the spirit of this approach is also consistent with the Irish electoral law that prohibits campaigns from accepting foreign donations'.

Facebook stated the ban will apply equally to both sides of the debate and that it has "built relationships with political parties, groups representing both sides of the campaign". It added: "We will then assess and act on those reports".

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

Facebook has not applied such a policy to British elections or referendums.

We have established a dedicated reporting channel for advocacy groups on both sides of the campaign, and for the Transparent Referendum Initiative, so that they can surface any issues they identify directly to us. Our goal is simple: to help ensure a free, fair and transparent vote on this important issue'.

Together For Yes also welcomed the news.