Published: Thu, May 10, 2018
IT | By Emmett Cole

Facebook to reject abortion referendum ads from outside Ireland

Facebook to reject abortion referendum ads from outside Ireland

It appears Facebook is trying to appear proactive where regulations may be slow to catch up - in Ireland, overseas political donations are banned, but foreign social media ads aren't.

The company has begun blocking any referendum-related ads that do not come from organisations legitimately registered in Ireland.

In a statement today, Facebook admitted it was an issue they had been "thinking about for some time".

Facebook has said it will block ads relating to Ireland's forthcoming referendum on abortion that do not originate from advertisers inside the country. The page seemed designed, Sheridan said, to draw in undecided voters who would then be targeted with personalized ads for the campaign that seeks to maintain Ireland's conservative abortion laws.

In its statement, Facebook said that its move was in order to "help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence".

It will not be able to respond to reports or objections from the public, as it does not yet have automated tools to respond to such communications, a spokeswoman said.

The social media group, under scrutiny for its role in Britain's Brexit referendum and the 2016 USA presidential election, made the move following criticism that foreign advertising could be a decisive in the campaign to overhaul one of the world's strictest abortion regimes.

Facebook has said similar tools will be rolled out in other countries, with analysts and observers focused in particular on the 2018 midterm elections in the United States.

A new "view ads" tool, which is still in trial mode after launching on April 25, allows users to see all of the ads an advertiser is running on the site in Ireland.

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

"It's as much as they can do at the moment, but we believe that the Data Commissioner will work closely with them in the future to ensure that Facebook remains independent and doesn't interfere with what's happening in the country", he added.

The firm added that it meant to provide an open platform "for people to express ideas and views on both sides of a debate". Our goal is simple: "to help ensure a free, fair and transparent vote on this important issue".

The May 25, referendum would reveal whether the Irish people want to remove the eighth amendment.

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