Sunday 24 February 2019

We'll block all foreign ads on Eighth Amendment referendum - Facebook

Facebook has pledged to block influence from abroad
Facebook has pledged to block influence from abroad

Facebook is to block all ads related to the Eighth Amendment referendum that come from advertisers outside of Ireland.

The social media giant is responding to criticism that unaccountable foreign advertising is gaining traction in the referendum campaign.

The company has begun blocking any referendum-related ads that do not come from organisations legitimately registered in Ireland.

Facebook has also indicated it will implement the same rule for future elections in Ireland, disallowing any ads that do not come from registered entities here.

However, the move will not prevent ads that are funded from abroad if they are placed through organisations located in Ireland.

"Concerns have been raised about organisations and individuals based outside of Ireland trying to influence the outcome of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland by buying ads on Facebook," the company said in a statement.

"This is an issue that we have been thinking about for some time.

"As part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence, we will begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland.

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

The company will rely on reports from established campaign groups relating to foreign-based ads.

It will not be able to respond to reports or objections from the public, as it does not yet have automated tools to respond to such communications, a spokeswoman said.

Facebook has previously committed to introduce such tools but has said they are not ready in time for the referendum.

"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 in its latest statement.


"We have already begun to roll out the first of our ad transparency tools in Ireland.

"Our View Ads feature - which enables Irish Facebook users to see all of the ads any advertiser is running on Facebook in Ireland at the same time - has been fast-tracked and is operational."

The company says that "additional election integrity tools" which are being built include a "verification process" that requires the advertiser to be resident in the country where the election or referendum is taking place.

"What we are now doing for the referendum on the Eighth Amendment will allow us to operate as though these tools, which are not yet fully available, were in place with respect to foreign referendum-related advertising," the company statement added.

"This change will apply to ads we determine to be coming from a foreign entity which are attempting to influence the outcome of the vote on May 25.

"We do not intend to block campaigns and advocacy organisations in Ireland from using service providers outside of Ireland."

The company has insisted that it is not taking any sides in the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign.

"We understand the sensitivity of this campaign and will be working hard to ensure neutrality at all stages," said the company.

"We are an open platform for people to express ideas and views on both sides of a debate," it added.

"Our goal is simple: to help ensure a free, fair and transparent vote on this important issue."

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