Friday 25 May 2018

Google and YouTube to ban all ads relating to abortion referendum

Google stock
Google stock

Adrian Weckler, Kyle Ewald and Nicola Anderson

Google is to block all ads on its search engine and on YouTube relating to the upcoming abortion referendum.

“Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment,” said a company statement.

The tech giant’s move means that related to the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment are now completely banned on both Google and Twitter.

Yesterday, Facebook announced that it was blocking all ads related to the Eighth Amendment referendum that come from advertisers out of Ireland. However, it will still allow referendum-related ads that are paid for by organisations within Ireland.

While Facebook has 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, Google has not yet said what it intends to do in the area of political ads in future.

The company is currently rolling out a ‘verification process’ for election ads in the US, which is expected to extend into other countries.

The ban will take effect within 24 hours also includes related ads on Youtube.

The regulation comes directly after Facebook’s declaration that it was banning all foreign advertisers from using ad space on its platform.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said the decision will have a meaningful effect both globally and internationally.

Speaking today, Mr Ryan said: “The announcement is of international significance. It’s not just important for the referendum on the 8th amendment. It’s important for how referenda and elections can be protected from undue influence all around the world.”

Mr Ryan said Google’s approach, unlike Facebook’s, allows the company to “avoid the difficult task of discerning where the original advertisements come from”, and “avoids giving unfair advantage to those with massive online advertising budgets.”

“It’s regrettable that this has been done last minute, in a voluntary capacity by the companies involved,” he added. “The political system needs to think hard about how online advertising in elections is regulated so the process, in future, is transparent and fair.”

Pro Life campaigners reacted furiously to the decision by Google to suspend all advertising relating to the forthcoming referendum on abortion describing it as “an attempt to rig the election.”

An emergency press conference was called by the Pro Life Campaign, Save the 8th and the Iona Institute, following the announcement.

They claimed the decision to ban ads on Google had been taken “because one side in this referendum is terrified of losing and wants to prevent voters from being informed.”

The group claim they will now be put at a disadvantage because they had particularly relied on posters and social media to put out their message.

Pro Life campaigner John McGuirk said the decision by Google is not about concerns about the integrity of elections.

“It is about concerns that the No side might win,” he claimed.

He also claimed that Amnesty Ireland and the Irish Family Planning Association have received over €400,000 in foreign donations but “when asked to return an illegal foreign donation, Amnesty refused.”

“It is very clear that the Government, much of the establishment media and corporate Ireland have determined that anything that needs to be done to secure a Yes vote must be done,” said Mr McGuirk.

While David Quinn called on Google to produce proof that the integrity of the referendum campaign had been compromised.

He claimed the decision had been preempted by Google and that this decision was not theirs to make, but the Government’s.

Maria Steen of the Iona Institute claimed that 50pc of the posters put up by the No side had been taken down and that this represented a loss of €100,000 to the campaigners.

“We put up 12,000 posters at least half were taken down,” she said.

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