Sunday 21 October 2018

British newspaper in 'bid to influence abortion vote' denial

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of The Sunday Times, Kate Gleeson, Digital Marketing Manager, News Ireland and Richard Oakley, editor of the Ireland edition of The Times
Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of The Sunday Times, Kate Gleeson, Digital Marketing Manager, News Ireland and Richard Oakley, editor of the Ireland edition of The Times
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A BRITISH newspaper has denied it is using Facebook data to influence the result of the upcoming abortion referendum.

And the newspaper with a London-based headquarters insisted it used the social media platform to promote its stories to all sides of the abortion debate.

The pro-life side of the abortion campaign has frequently accused ‘The Times, Ireland Edition’ of being biased in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

A recent pro-choice story in ‘The Sunday Times’ headlined: “HSE used Eighth to try and force me to have a caesarean” has been appearing as a sponsored post from the paper in Facebook users’ feeds.

This led pro-life campaigner John McGuirk – a member of the Save the 8th campaign – to use a Facebook tool that explains why users are seeing particular ads.

He posted a screen grab of the response he got from Facebook. It stated: “One reason why you’re seeing this ad is that ‘The Times’ and ‘The Sunday Times, Ireland Edition’ wants to reach people interested in anti-abortion movements”.

Mr McGuirk claimed that ‘The Times’ was “targeting a news story at women who might be voting No on #repealthe8th” and outlined a theory arguing that they were “actively campaigning for a yes vote”.

He sought an explanation from the ‘Sunday Times’ and Richie Oakley, the editor of its sister paper ‘The Times, Ireland Edition’.

Mr Oakley took to Twitter to reject the suggestion that it promoted the article solely to those in the anti-abortion campaign in a bid to influence the referendum, insisting “this is not true”.

He said the link to the ‘Sunday Times’ story was promoted to “anyone with views around childbirth, midwives and those who hold pro and anti views on abortion/women’s rights issues”.

Mr Oakley added: “We promote a number of articles each day and this one was promoted in the same standard way.

“The topics of the stories we promote vary and in this case this story was chosen as it was interesting and we believed people would like to read it.”

He insisted the Facebook posts were promoted articles, not ads.

Mr McGuirk later said he had a conversation with Mr Oakley and he was confident there was an understanding of why he raised concerns over the issue.

He said he had no reason to doubt Mr Oakley’s explanation the posts weren’t targeted solely at people with anti-abortion views.

Mr Oakley last night said he couldn’t speak for the ‘Sunday Times’, but insisted his publication’s editorial stance in favour of repeal does not affect its reporting of news stories relating to abortion.

He told the Irish Independent he has challenged people to show him news articles containing bias and insisted there were none as its stories were “factually correct from start to finish”.

Mr Oakley said the paper reports there are a large number of people in Ireland who are opposed to abortion on ethical grounds and that they have never denied this is the case.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News