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Facebook ads for website targeting Maria Walsh deemed not to break community standards

Fine Gael has asked Facebook and Google to remove the ads.

Midlands North-West candidate Maria Walsh.
Midlands North-West candidate Maria Walsh.
Image: Sam Boal via Rollingnews.ie

FACEBOOK ADS FOR a website targeting European election candidate Maria Walsh have been deemed not to break the website’s community standards. 

Yesterday, Fine Gael asked Facebook and Google to remove ads for a website that is designed to look like a campaign site in favour of Walsh’s candidacy but instead portrays her in a negative light. 

Fine Gael issued a statement today claiming that the ads returned to Facebook.

“The ad was initially removed yesterday after Fine Gael contacted the social media giant about the issue. However, an exact copy of the same ad has since reappeared and Facebook has taken the decision to allow the ad to remain on their platform,” it said.

The ad does not appear to be online this evening but its earlier reappearance is believed to be linked to a review which deemed that it did not break Facebook’s community standards. 

download An ad for the website shared online. Source: Twitter

The ad directed people to a website in which the homepage states: “Maria Walsh is running for MEP. But before you vote for her, make sure that you know what she stands for.”

It adds that it “is not affiliated to Maria Walsh’s campaign”.

The website specifically targets Walsh for her work as an LGBT advocate and says that she has used the term homophobia “as a weapon”.

It quotes an Irish Times interview with Walsh in which she says she will “ruffle feathers” of traditional Fine Gael voters.

The website claims this translates as a promise by Walsh to go after “traditional values”.

“Maria has made clear that her aims include to annoy those who, because of conservative beliefs, cannot approve of the homosexual lifestyle,” the website states.

The review by Facebook deemed that while the ads mention Walsh’s LGBT activism, they do not attack her on that basis or on the basis of her sexual orientation. 

The review also determined that the website was not designed to misrepresent a connection to Walsh’s campaign.

Walsh herself claimed the ads made a reappearance online because the account behind them has verified.

A statement from Facebook to TheJournal.ie says that “authorised pages” are allowed to run ads. 

Information seen by TheJournal.ie on two ads about Maria Walsh on Facebook show that they were ‘active’ since 22 March.

“Protecting the integrity of EU elections is a priority for Facebook. That is why, since April, we have been enforcing new transparency rules for ads relating to politics which require people to get authorisation from Facebook to run a political ad,” a spokesperson for the company said.

All authorised pages running political ads with a valid disclaimer must adhere to Facebook’s community standards and ads policies. 

Also today, Google said it has introduced a new policy to verify advertisers and a transparency report for the EU parliamentary election, to improve people’s understanding of the political advertising they see online.

“We continue to improve our processes and if we discover ads that break our policies, we take appropriate action,” a Google spokesperson said. 

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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