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Social media ad regulations should be drawn up for future referendums, Commission says

The Referendum Commission says new regulations should be drawn up by government.

Referendum ads
Referendum ads

POSTER AND SOCIAL media advertising regulations should be drawn up in future referendums, the Referendum Commission has recommended. 

A report on the repealing of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution also suggested that an extended role for the Advertising Authority of Ireland might be appropriate in regulating such ads. 

In the run up to the referendum in May, Google, YouTube and Facebook announced that it was suspending advertisements relating to the Eighth Amendment referendum.

Concerns had been raised about foreign groups buying up adverts relating to the referendum in Ireland at the time. 

In the report, which was presented to Minister Eoghan Murphy, it is recommended the assignment of all statutory functions of the Referendum Commission be given to an Electoral Commission.

The Commission states that it endorses the position adopted by previous commissions that the optimum solution to providing more time to do its work. 

The setting up of an Electoral Commission has been mooted for some time by the government. It is understood the department is currently carrying out a regulatory impact assessment of establishing such a commission. 

A memo on matter is due to go before Cabinet before Christmas. 

Reviewing its work around May’s referendum, the Commission was somewhat critical of having just 11 weeks to plan and execute its campaign, which it stated was a “relatively short period”. 

While it said there was already good awareness around the referendum and what it was about, it found that its free-to-air broadcasts were beneficial in giving a more detailed account of the referendum proposal.

The use of focus group research on the content of its independent guide proved very valuable in informing content and ensuring that it was clear and understandable, found the report, which adds that the Commission would do so again in the future. 

The Commission highlighted that its information guide was issued to 2.2 million homes around the country.

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