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No campaigners say Google's ban on ads is attempt to rig referendum for Yes side

At a joint press conference today, No campaigners said that the move was taken out of fear the No side might win.

Save the 8th spokesperson John McGuirk speaking today.
Save the 8th spokesperson John McGuirk speaking today.
Image: Sam Boal

A NUMBER OF groups campaigning for a No vote in the upcoming Eighth Amendment referendum have said that a decision from Google to ban all advertisements related to the vote is an attempt to “rig” the vote in favour of the Yes side.

Today, Google announced the ban on all Eighth-related advertisements, including ads on Youtube and Google Adwords. It followed a decision from Facebook to ban all ads on its platform related to the referendum that are from advertisers based outside of Ireland.

Concerns had been raised about the unregulated nature of online advertising and how people can be targeted in the context of the upcoming vote.

In a statement today, Google said: “Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment.”

It is understood that Google was made aware of concerns around online advertising, with the ban on adverts related to the referendum to take effect in the next 24 hours and persist right through to the day of the vote.

At a press conference in Dublin today, representatives from Save the 8th, the Pro Life Campaign and the Iona Institute accused the government, the media and the Yes side of orchestrating the Google ban to scupper the No side’s chances.

Save the 8th spokesperson John McGuirk said that while Facebook’s decision to ban foreign advertisers was welcome, the ban on all advertising through Google affected the No side in particular.

He said a number of No groups had earmarked significant spending on the platform ahead of the referendum on 25 May to reach voters, and that it was a legitimate means of doing so.

In a statement, the groups said: “In this case, it means preventing campaigns that have done nothing illegal from campaigning in a perfectly legal matter.

Online was the only platform available to the No campaign to speak to voters directly. That platform is now being undermined, in order to prevent the public from hearing the message of one side.

They also said that the action from Google was taken because one side of the referendum was afraid it is “losing” the campaign, and said that “massive pressure” had been exerted on the online companies from the government, media and Yes side to take action against adverts on the campaign.

They also said that the ban disproportionately affects the No side, accusing the media of being biased and aiding the Yes side.

McGuirk added that, on the back of today’s decision to ban online advertising through Google, it made it more likely that individuals would challenge the result of the referendum in the courts in the event of a Yes vote.

The groups also claimed that at least half of its posters on the streets had been taken down in recent weeks, resulting in a heavy financial loss to the No side.

Google advertising works in a number of ways. Depending on what you search for online, advertisers can select terms that make their ads appear when you search for that term.

On YouTube, adverts often play before your chosen video begins to play. In both cases, groups or individuals can pay to have their adverts appear in this way.

google-adwords

In a statement responding to the Google ban, Together for Yes campaign co-director Ailbhe Smyth said: “This creates a level playing field between all sides, specifically in relation to YouTube and Google searches, who can now seek to convince the Irish electorate by the strength of their argument and power of personal testimony, not by the depth of their pockets.

We believe this referendum will be won on facts, and now when undecided voters are searching online, they’ll see the most relevant answers to their questions – not the ones that are paid to be put in front of them.

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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