Facebook to block foreign ads in Irish abortion referendum

Abortion referendum Ireland: Facebook ban ads on Eight Amendment referendum by foreign advertisers

Facebook bans Eighth Amendment-related ads from advertisers based outside Ireland

Facebook is using Ireland's abortion referendum to test policies meant to prevent foreign meddling in elections.

Facebook faced a wave of criticism for missing interference by Russia-based groups during the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States.

Facebook will no longer accept any advertisements related to the upcoming abortion referendum if they are coming from advertisers based outside Ireland.

The company will rely on reports from established campaign groups relating to foreign-based ads.

Facebook has previously committed to introduce such tools, but says they are not yet ready in time for the Eighth Amendment referendum.

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Irish Christians-including the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) as well as the Catholic Church-have sought to counter the campaign by reminding their members of the inherent dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.

"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 organization running a political ad is located in that country", Facebook said in a blog post outlining the Irish decision.

Concerns had been raised about worldwide organisations trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming abortion referendum by buying ads on Facebook.

A spokeswoman for Facebook told the BBC that the social media site did not have any similar plans in other countries to make public at present.

Facebook stated on Tuesday that bands taking care of each side of the Irish referendum could have the capacity to flag ads suspected of arriving from overseas associations. The company also claimed it'd utilize synthetic intelligence technologies to spot maybe debatable materials. "Yet we have even less information on these advertisements than we do on Facebook ads". The company has changed its News Feed algorithm to de-emphasize political news and has hired thousands of moderators globally to spot rumors and extremist content.

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Feeney said that proper laws and regulations were needed in the area of social media advertising and publishing. It 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. "It's not just about Facebook". About one in five voters are undecided.

Under the eighth amendment, abortion is illegal in Ireland unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

"It's not necessarily underhanded to try and identify targets for advertising, but if you are not being transparent about who you are representing, then it's a problem", he said.

Transparency campaigners and advocates have been voicing concerns over a number of hard to trace advertisements related to the referendum that have been appearing on Facebook and other platforms in recent weeks.

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