Facebook to block foreign ads in Irish abortion referendum

11 May, 2018, 01:06 | Author: Clint Gray
  • 'A welcome development': Facebook says it will ban all Eighth referendum ads from foreign sources

As both sides of the Atlantic recoil over revelations about the now-defunct British data firm Cambridge Analytica's unauthorized use of Facebook data during the 2016 USA presidential election, Ireland's vote has emerged as a key test case for the social network to show it can be trusted.

Concerns have been raised about the influence organisations and individuals based outside of Ireland have had on the outcome of the referendum thanks to a legal loophole that allows them to buy adverts on social media.

"This is an issue that we have been thinking about for some time".

"Today, as part of our".

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Abortion has always been a divisive issue in Ireland.

Facebook explained that the move was created to protect the integrity of elections and referendums from "undue influence".

Although the Offenses Against the Person Act made abortion illegal in 1861, the Irish held a referendum to amend the Constitution of Ireland and create the Eighth Amendment, making the ban unalterable unless through another referendum, which will be held May 25.

Facebook has already stepped up efforts to tackle fake news ahead of the vote, rolling out a new tool in Ireland to give users more information about political advertisements and sponsored posts in their news feeds.

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Facebook says it won't accept any foreign ads related to the upcoming abortion referendum in Ireland.

The delay in launching the feature, and the short time left in the campaign, led to criticism of the company. Last month, the Irish data protection commissioner said it was possible foreign actors could try to sway the referendum. The problem came from interference in elections in the USA and in other areas as well.

He added: "We've seen preroll ads on YouTube, display ads on any number of sites, suggested results on Google linking to pro- or anti- pages, and it's not at all clear who is behind these". 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. The advertisements are then going to be investigated by the social networking platform. However, foreigners were until Tuesday able to purchase Facebook ads directly targeting Irish voters.

As for who is paying for those ads, said Sheridan, "the only people who know that for certain are Facebook themselves".

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