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

The Irish abortion referendum

The Irish abortion referendum

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

The move comes as platforms grow increasingly anxious that ads on their sites could be used to distort the result of the referendum on a repeal of Ireland's abortion ban.

"Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have made a decision to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment", the spokesperson said, as reported by RTE. And it marks the latest chapter in the technology company's attempt to move past criticism that it has helped subvert democratic decision-making, primarily surrounding issues of data protection and user targeting.

Google's policy change will be effective from 10 May and includes YouTube ads.

Mr McIntyre said the decision restricts the ability of a "disproportionately well-funded side" to set the terms of the debate.

The National Review reports the decisions by Facebook and Google "disproportionately [harm] pro-life advocates who have relied more heavily than their opponents on digital advertising".

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Pro-lifers estimate that the Eighth Amendment has saved approximately 100,000 unborn babies' lives from abortion. Anti-abortion groups based in the United States are among the organizations that have bought online ads in Ireland during the referendum campaign.

Google sources quoted by The Irish Times newspaper said executives began to fear that if the referendum were defeated, the company would be the subject of "an avalanche of blame and further scrutiny" of their role in election campaigns.

Government leaders will consider introducing a bill to legalize abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy if the Eighth amendment is repealed.

Yesterday, the transparency campaigner Gavin Sheridan tweeted that it was now his view that the No side would win the campaign because its online spending was dwarfing that of the Yes campaign.

Recent polls show a narrow lead for the campaign to repeal the amendment, although many voters have yet to make up their mind.

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