Sunday 20 January 2019

'The Times' paid Facebook to promote pro-Brexit content to users in Ireland

‘Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch
‘Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Rupert Murdoch-owned The Times, Ireland edition, has defended paying Facebook to promote pro-Brexit content to Irish users of the social media platform.

The controversial Australian media mogul's newspaper sponsored a social media post which celebrated Brexit and paid for the article to appear on Irish Facebook timelines.

Brexit is the single biggest threat to Ireland's economy since the financial crash which led to record job losses and mass emigration.

Mr Murdoch and the majority of his UK newspapers have openly supported Brexit both before and after the UK referendum.

The sponsored Facebook article was written by UK-based Times columnist Ian Martin and was headlined: 'The Rise of Juncker's chief of staff and Michel Barnier's skewed view of Northern Ireland show Brussels at its worst'.

The strapline for the post promoted to Irish social media users was 'EU arrogance shows we're right to be leaving'.

Facebook has a function which allows users to check why they have been targeted with sponsored content.

One Irish Facebook user who received the pro-Brexit article on their timeline found the content was targeted at 'people aged 33 and older who live or recently lived in Ireland'.

The article was sponsored by The Times and the Sunday Times, Ireland edition.

The Dublin based edition of The Sunday Times published an editorial in its paper calling on the British people to vote in favour of leaving the EU despite the consequence Brexit posed for Ireland. The Times in London did not support Brexit.

Last week, The Times would not say if either of their Irish titles continues to support Brexit. The newspaper would also not say who decides on the articles which are promoted on Facebook by The Times and the Sunday Times, Ireland editions.

However, a spokeswoman for The Times, Ireland edition said: "The Times is proud to publish comment pieces across the political spectrum - we let our well-informed readers make up their minds and we promote articles that showcase our breadth of coverage on Brexit and beyond.

"Also, for the record, on Brexit: The Times supported remain and the Sunday Times supported Brexit - they are separate newspapers," she added.

She also said The Times has sponsored Facebook content which opposed Brexit.

In recent weeks, the Irish edition of The Times was forced to explain why it had sponsored pro-abortion content on Facebook.

The newspaper's editor Richie Oakley also revealed the title was in favour of changing Ireland's abortion laws to allow doctors to terminate pregnancies.

The Times spokeswoman would not say if the Irish editions have ever sponsored pro-choice content on Facebook.

Sunday Independent

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