Facebook to block all foreign ads about Eighth Amendment referendum
Facebook has also indicated that it will implement the same rule for future elections in Ireland
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.
From today, the company will begin blocking any referendum-related ads that do not come from organisations legitimately registered in Ireland.
Facebook has also indicated that it will implement the same rule for future elections in Ireland, disallowing any ads that do not come from registered entities in Ireland.
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,” said the company in a statement.
“This is an issue we have been thinking about for some time.”
“Today, 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.”
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, a spokeswoman said, as it does not yet have automated tools to respond to such communications.
Facebook has previously committed to introduce such tools, but says they are not yet ready in time for the Eighth Amendment 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,” said the company in its latest statement. “We have already begun to roll out the first of our ads 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 today.”
The company says that “additional election integrity tools” being built include a “verification process” that requires the advertiser to be resident in the country where the election 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 today with respect to foreign referendum-related advertising,” said the company statement. “We feel the spirit of this approach is also consistent with the Irish electoral law that prohibits campaigns from accepting foreign donations.”
“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.”
Facebook will be using machine learning “to help us with this effort to identify ads that should no longer be running”.
“We have also built relationships with political parties, groups representing both sides of the campaign and with the Transparent Referendum Initiative, who we are asking to notify us if they have concerns about ad campaigns. We will then assess and act on those reports.”
The company insists that it is not taking any sides in the referendum campaign.
“We understand the sensitivity of this campaign and will be working hard to ensure neutrality at all stages,” said the company statement. “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.”