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Google to halt all ads on Irish abortion referendum

Google says it is responding to fears that foreign organisations and individuals could overly influence the outcome of the Irish referendum on abortion
AFP

London (AFP) – Google said on Wednesday it will pause all adverts related to the Irish referendum on abortion to be held later this month — the day after Facebook announced a similar move.

The tech titans have responded to fears that foreign organisations and individuals could overly influence the outcome of the much-anticipated May 25 poll to change the country’s constitution and legalise abortion.

“Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the eighth amendment,” a Google spokesman said in a statement.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland under the amendment unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

If Irish people vote to repeal it, laws allowing the termination of pregnancies up to 12 weeks will be permissible.

Google will begin enforcing the measure, which will apply to all its platforms including the phenomenally popular YouTube video channel, on Thursday and continue until the May 25 ballot, according to the spokesman.

The company announced last week it would be rolling out a verification process for election adverts in the United States and pledged to look at a wider range of elections globally.

Meanwhile, Facebook said Tuesday it will block foreign adverts aimed at the Irish referendum, “as part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence”.

It said it had too been thinking about the issue “for some time.” 

Facebook has faced accusations that foreign actors, including the Russian state, have attempted to impact the outcomes of ballots in the US, Britain and elsewhere through the popular social network.

Helen Dixon, the Irish data protection commissioner, warned last month foreign influences could try to sway the abortion poll.

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