Tech giants Facebook and Google have banned advertisements related to Ireland’s upcoming abortion referendum this month.
Ahead of Ireland’s upcoming referendum, which will decide whether or not the country’s eighth amendment preventing abortion in the country will be revoked, Silicon Valley’s masters of the universe have chosen to ban advertisements relating to the referendum. Facebook and Google both announced separately that they would be banning the advertisement of ads relating to the referendum. Facebook has banned ads from organizations based out of Ireland, while Google has banned all ads regardless of source.
Facebook said in a statement:
We understand the sensitivity of this campaign and will be working hard to ensure neutrality at all stages. 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.
A Google spokesperson stated:
Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
Irish Times political reporter Pat Leahy discussed the move by the tech companies, stating that for many pro-abortion campaigners on the left, this was good news.
The move by Facebook to no longer accept foreign advertisements relating to the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment will come as welcome news to some on the Yes side of the campaign.
There has been rising concern among some pro-repeal groups and supporters that the referendum could be swayed in its decisive weeks towards a No vote by an avalanche of online ads.
Facebook’s move is likely to be directly related to this fear: and a fear that if the referendum were defeated, the company would face questions about its role in influencing votes, as it has in the US and UK.
In the past fortnight, there has been a rising sense of pessimism in some repeal quarters that the campaign was slipping away from them. Yesterday, the transparency campaigner Gavin Sheridan tweeted that it was now his view that the No side would win the campaign because its online spending was dwarfing that of the Yes campaign.
The co-director of the main campaign for legalizing abortion in Ireland, Ailbhe Smyth, praised Google for their decision saying that it “creates a level playing field between all sides, specifically in relation to YouTube and Google searches.” The head of the pro-life group Save The 8th, John McGuirk, stated that the tech company’s decisions were “scandalous” and “an attempt to rig the referendum.”
The Irish Pro-Life Campaign, Save the 8th and the Iona Institute said in a statement: “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.” They continued to say: “In this case, it means preventing campaigns that have done nothing illegal from campaigning in a perfectly legal manner.”