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Facebook announces a ban of all Eighth referendum ads from foreign sources

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″.

Image: Dominic Lipinski

SOCIAL MEDIA GIANT Facebook has announced that it is banning all ads on its platform related to the upcoming referendum if they are from advertisers based outside of Ireland.

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″.

It said that this would relate to paid of advertisements on its platform.

“We do not intend to block campaigns and advocacy organisations in Ireland from using service providers outside of Ireland,” the company said in a statement on its website.

The ban from Facebook comes following concerns that unknown actors from outside of the state could buy ads to influence Irish voters ahead of the historic referendum.

On 25 May the Irish public will vote on whether to repeal of retain the Eighth Amendment of the constitution – which grants the equal right to life to the mother and the unborn child.

Transparency campaigners and advocates have been voicing concerns over a number of difficult to trace advertisements related to the referendum that have been appearing on Facebook and other platforms in recent weeks.

Online advertising is not regulated for under Ireland’s electoral laws.

Currently, there are no laws or regulations governing social media advertisements or targeting of voters by overseas organisations in relation to the upcoming referendum.

Statement

In its statement, Facebook said that its move was in order to “help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence”.

“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,” Facebook said.

It said that as part of these efforts, it is building tools that would require potential advertisers to verify that they are resident in the country where the election is taking place.

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

“We feel the spirit of this approach is also consistent with the Irish electoral law that prohibits campaigns from accepting foreign donations,” it said.

“A welcome development”

Commenting on the move, Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney called it a “welcome development”.

“It’s an acknowledgment by Facebook that they have a responsibility for their role in the public discussion that’s taking place around the Eighth Amendment,” he said.

It’s only a small step, but it’s a very welcome step.
Feeney said that proper laws and regulations were needed in the area of social media advertising and publishing.

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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