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Facebook feature shows official Eighth Amendment campaign pages are being managed by accounts located abroad

A new Facebook feature silently went live for a period yesterday showing where managers of pages are located.

IRELAND, THE UK, the US, Hungary – these are the countries where official campaign Facebook pages for the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment appear to be managed from.

A new Facebook feature silently went live for a period yesterday which is linked to ongoing efforts by the social media giant to improve its transparency and accountability around political campaigns.

The “Page History” feature – which was still in a testing phase – allowed users to see how many people manage a specific page on Facebook, where managers are located, and if the page in question has had any previous names.

The feature follows on from Facebook launching its View Ads feature showing how many ads and the type of ads being run by a page at any one time.

Both the “View Ads” feature and the Page History feature were deactivated yesterday evening.

Following this, Facebook released a statement saying that it had “mistakenly launched” an early test version of the feature in Ireland and Canada.

“We are still working on the product so have since rolled it back,” Facebook said.

“This also meant rolling back ads transparency in those countries, which will be back online shortly.

We’ll share more information on these products in the coming weeks.

Analysis 

The area of social media advertising has been brought largely into the focus by the upcoming upcoming referendum on 25 May – in which the country will decide whether or not to Repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Facebook has been scrambling to improve its practices in the wake of a number of data protection and election scandals in recent years.

The social media giant announced earlier this week  that it was banning all ads from foreign sources related to the referendum.

Anonymous accounts and accounts affiliated to neither official campaigns are prominent on Facebook, with concerns raised by campaigners over who is behind them.

A voluntary group – the Transparency Referendum Initiative – was set up earlier this year and attempts to track all of the ads being targeted at people on Facebook in relation to the referendum.

TRI then categorises the ads into a database, to track who is being targeted when and by which groups.

An analysis of this database by Storyful found that in a breakdown of the Facebook ads shown to 600 Irish people over the past number of months found that 37% of all ads advocating for a No vote in the referendum came from accounts managed solely in Ireland, compared to 81% of ads from the Yes side of the campaign.

There are multiple registered and unregistered pages on Facebook campaigning for either side of the referendum. Here are the details on the main ones:

Pro-Repeal pages (voting Yes)

Abortion Rights Campaign 

The Abortion Rights Campaign is registered with Sipo as a Third Party.

The Facebook page is managed by 23 different people all located in Ireland. The page was set up on 16 January 2013 and has no previous names.

Amnesty International Ireland

The Irish wing of Amnesty International is registered with Sipo as a Third Party.

The Facebook page is managed by two people located in Ireland and was created on 20 October 2009.

Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment

Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is registered with Sipo as a Third Party.

The page is managed by seven people based in Ireland and was created on 13 August 2014.

Rosa – Socialist Feminist Movement 

Rosa – Socialist Feminist Movement registered with Sipo as a Third Party.

The page is managed by 25 people located in Ireland and the US.

TheJournal.ie contacted Rosa yesterday evening for comment on the managers located overseas, the group said that all of its administrators lived in Ireland. One of its members had lived in the US last year for a period.

TFMR Ireland 

TFMR Ireland is registered with Sipo as a Third Party.

The page is managed by nine people located in Ireland and the UK and was set up 6 April 2012.

Together for Yes

Together for Yes is registered with Sipo.

The page is managed by 17 people located in Ireland.

Anti-Repeal pages (vote No)

Save the 8th

Save The 8th is campaigning for a No vote is registered  with Sipo as a Third Party.

The Facebook page is managed by 14 people located in Hungary, the UK and two other countries not listed by Facebook.

TheJournal.ie contact Save The 8th for a statement on managers of the page outside of Ireland.

The spokesperson refused to comment on the questions raised.

Cherish All The Children Equally 

Cherish All The Children Equally is registered with Sipo as a Third Party.

The page is managed by four people based in both Ireland and the UK and was created on 19 September 2016.

Family & Life

Family & Life is registered with Sipo as a Third Party.

The page is managed by eight people based in Ireland the UK and the US and was set up on 23 July 2010.

Protect the 8th 

Protect the 8th is the official campaign group of Family & life. It is not registered separately with Sipo.

The page is managed by eight people based in Ireland the UK and the US and was set up on 23 July 2010.

The Iona Institute 

The Iona Institute is registered with Sipo.

The page is managed by five people all located in Ireland.

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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