Facebook to ban all foreign ads relating to abortion referendum

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"As part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence, we will begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland", it said.

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.

The move is announced amid the scandal around Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica company, which cooperated with the social network.

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

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"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 organisation running a political ad is located in that country", Facebook said.

Previously, Facebook launched a "view ads" feature in Ireland on 25 April, enabling users to see every ad that any advertiser is running on the platform in Ireland at the same time.

Facebook has not applied such a policy to British elections or referendums.

In addition, Facebook is planning to introduce a searchable database to show how much an advertiser is spending, and the demographic details of the audience that a group is trying to reach. Ireland is the first country where Facebook has implemented the rule. "This is about regulation and transparency", Ryan said.

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Google and its video-sharing service, YouTube, did not respond to a request for comment. About one in five voters are undecided.

The May 25 referendum will decide whether abortion should be legalized in Ireland.

"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.

Facebook has already stepped up efforts to tackle fake news ahead of the vote, rolling out a new tool in Ireland to give users more information about political advertisements and sponsored posts in their news feeds.

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But it allows users to see only current ads, so it is impossible to gauge the totality of an organization's online activity. "I think Google and Facebook and all the other social media companies out there will be responsible in relation to this and are facing the consequences that can happen as a result of this", he added.

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