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

10 May, 2018, 00:25 | Author: Bennie Parsons
  • 'A welcome development': Facebook says it will ban all Eighth referendum ads from foreign sources

Facebook is no longer accepting referendum related ads from advertisers based outside of Ireland.

The full suite of tools will not be available in time for the election on May 25.

The company will rely on reports from established campaign groups relating to foreign-based ads.

A 25 May referendum could repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Republic of Ireland's constitution, which states "the right to life of the unborn".

The company's response illustrates its more aggressive approach to regulating political advertising since the 2016 campaign, when the company disclosed that it had sold more than $100,000 worth of political ads to Russia-linked accounts.

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.


The social media giant said organisations outside of Ireland had been buying ads to influence the outcome of the vote. The company also said it would use artificial-intelligence technology to spot potentially problematic material.

The announcement, which comes less than three weeks before Irish voters go to the polls, testifies to the depths of concerns that foreign advertising could skew the vote. Part of that will require the advertiser to be resident in the country where the election is taking place. Ireland is the first country where Facebook has implemented the rule.

Meanwhile a 2013 change in the law, which was not put to a referendum, allowed for the exemption of mothers whose lives are endangered.

According to AP, Facebook is testing a new process that will confirm whether or not an advertiser taking out political ads is located within the country holding that particular vote - and with the 2018 USA midterms coming up, it's significant timing.

"It's not necessarily underhanded to try and identify targets for advertising, but if you are not being transparent about who you are representing, then it's a problem", he said. This enables Irish Facebook users to see all of the ads any advertiser is running on Facebook in Ireland at the same time. "Yet we have even less information on these advertisements than we do on Facebook ads".

A spokeswoman for Facebook told the BBC that the social media site did not have any similar plans in other countries to make public at present.

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