9 May 2018

Facebook bans foreign advertisers during Ireland abortion vote

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Facebook has blocked foreign adverts that target voters in Ireland’s upcoming abortion referendum.

The referendum, being held on 25 May, could repeal the Republic’s Eighth Amendment, which currently upholds a near-total ban on abortions.

In a statement, Facebook said: “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.

“Our company approach is to build tools to increase transparency around political advertising so that people know who is paying for the ads they are seeing, and to ensure any organisation running a political ad is located in that country.”

Separately, the role of political advertising on social media has come under intense scrutiny since Channel 4 News, the Observer and others revealed how a British data firm was behind a ‘data grab’ of more than 50 million Facebook profiles.

Cambridge Analytica, described as “pivotal” in Donald Trump’s presidential victory, announced last week that it would close its global operations.

In a statement, the company said: “Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the Company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.”

Meanwhile, Facebook itself has been under the gaze of regulators and legislators on both sides of the Atlantic following the revelations.