Facebook bans ads on Ireland's abortion referendum by foreign advertisers

Jack Feacon and Megan Apple at the launch of Youth for Yes

Facebook bans ads on Ireland's abortion referendum by foreign advertisers

Facebook is banning foreign advertisements relating to Ireland's abortion referendum amid fears USA groups are trying to influence the result.

The May 25 referendum will decide whether abortion should be legalized in Ireland. The company will rely partly on reports from campaign groups that identify such ads. 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 social media giant said yesterday that it would be putting a block on all advertisements relating to the referendum that come from outside of Ireland.

As part of the process, Ireland has also became the first country outside the United States to receive a set of advertiser-transparency tools Facebook promised in early in April.

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

Abortion has always been a divisive issue in Ireland.

"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. "I think Google and Facebook and all the other social media companies out there will be responsible in relation to this and are facing the consequences that can happen as a result of this", he added.

We are deploying Election Integrity Artificial Intelligence for the referendum, similar to what was established in advance of recent elections in France, Germany and Italy. "All their announcements seem created to stave off regulation, and for me it boils down to do we allow them to self-regulate, or do we regulate ourselves". It added: "We will then assess and act on those reports".

Irish Christians-including the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) as well as the Catholic Church-have sought to counter the campaign by reminding their members of the inherent dignity of the human person from conception to natural death. But the legislation does not cover money spent directly on digital advertising, a loophole that observers say has been exploited by groups overseas wishing to influence the vote.

Facebook was responding to criticism that unaccountable foreign advertising is gaining traction in the referendum campaign. Two weeks ago Liz Carolan, its founder, said her group "had picked up 144 different pages paying for ads at one point in time over the last few months".

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

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