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Facebook bans foreign ads on Irish abortion vote

May 9, 2018

Facebook is no longer accepting advertisements from outside Ireland aiming to influence an upcoming referendum on abortion. The social media giant is trying to improve transparency after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.


Advertisements about Ireland's impending referendum on abortion law that come from other countries will be blocked by Facebook in the lead-up to the vote, the tech giant said on Tuesday.

Abortion vote polarizes Irish society

"As part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence, we will begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland," Facebook said in a statement.

Read more: Shall I stay or shall I go now? The Facebook conundrum

On May 25, voters will decide whether to repeal the eighth amendment to Ireland's constitution, which prohibits abortion unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. The issue has long divided the once deeply Catholic country, and the referendum has garnered a lot of international attention.

Ireland bars political contributions from abroad, but the law does not apply to social media advertising. The country's data protection commissioner, Helen Dixon, warned last month that actors abroad could try to sway the highly anticipated vote.

@dwnews - Ireland divided over abortion referendum

"We understand the sensitivity of this campaign and will be working hard to ensure neutrality at all stages," Facebook said. "Our goal is simple: to help ensure a free, fair and transparent vote on this important issue."

More transparency

Facebook has been accused of allowing its platform to be used by outside entities to impact the outcomes of key votes, including Britain's Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election. The company's co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, faced a US Senate panel in April after Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, allegedly misused the data of millions of users.

The social media company launched a "view ads" tool on April 25 to allow users to view all of the ads being run by an advertiser. It also said it was testing a process that will help ensure advertisers are resident in the country where a vote is taking place.

Because automated election integrity tools are still in development, Facebook said it would rely on reports from established campaign groups from both sides of the referendum to identify foreign-based advertisements.

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dv/se (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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