Belfast Telegraph

Facebook bans ads from outside Ireland related to abortion referendum

By Gareth Cross

Social media giant Facebook have announced they will no longer be accepting ads related to the abortion referendum in the Republic of Ireland from outside the country.

The company have said that 'concerns have been raised' about organisations outside the country trying to reference the upcoming referendum.

It is not clear if the ban will apply to advertising from Northern Ireland.

Citizens of the Republic of Ireland will be asked on May 25 whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s Constitution, a provision that makes abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances.

If the public votes to repeal the constitutional provision, the Irish Government intends to table legislation that would permit women to abort within 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Facebook has come under pressure in recent months over claims that Russian-backed advertising helped Donald Trump win the US Presidency.

They also came under fire after Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s US election campaign, sustained severe criticism over its use of data gathered from millions of Facebook profiles.

Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees of the US Senate about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election last month.

The company said they will no longer allow the advertising from outside Ireland "as part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence."

They have created "additional election integrity tools" and "ads transparency tools" which have been fast-tracked into operation in Ireland.

However the company said "we do not intend to block campaigns and advocacy organisations in Ireland from using service providers outside of Ireland."

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

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

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

The Belfast Telegraph has contacted Facebook to clarify if the ban will apply to ads from people in Northern Ireland but have yet to receive a response.

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