Facebook Bans Foreign Ads in Ireland Abortion Referendum

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Facebook will no longer accept advertisements from outside Ireland related to the country's May 25 abortion referendum, the United States firm said on Tuesday, in its latest move to boost the transparency of its political advertising.

Irish Christians-including the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) as well as the Catholic Church-have sought to counter the campaign by reminding their members of the inherent dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.

The referendum ads change comes following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook said that it will not allow any ads coming from foreign sources which are deemed to be "attempting to influence the outcome of the vote on May 25".

Facebook said that for the objective of the referendum it would operate as though these tools were in place in Ireland.

In addition, Facebook is planning to introduce a searchable database to show how much an advertiser is spending, and the demographic details of the audience that a group is trying to reach.

"We also welcome comments from the Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney this afternoon that this move will hinder forces seeking to manipulate the democratic process in Ireland, and also his public appeal to tech giants likes Facebook and Google to face up their responsibilities and role in influencing democratic outcomes".

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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". Before the German election in September, for example, the company deleted thousands of fake accounts and worked with election officials to stop the spread of misinformation more quickly. About one in five voters are undecided.

Abortion has always been a divisive issue in Ireland.

"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.

Facebook was responding to criticism that unaccountable foreign advertising is gaining traction in the referendum campaign. The groups have a dedicated communications channel with Facebook that they can use to report campaigns they suspect may be paid for by groups outside the country.

No. There is no facility for ordinary users to report the ads directly to Facebook.

The campaigners were pushing for Facebook and other social media companies to ban the practice, saying online and offline regulation should be the same.

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