Facebook will no longer be accepting ads related to the forthcoming referendum if they are from advertisers based outside of Ireland.

Concerns have been raised about organisations and individuals based outside of Ireland trying to influence the outcome of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland by buying ads on Facebook. This is an issue we have been thinking about for some time.

Today, 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.

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. We have already begun to roll out the first of our ads transparency tools in Ireland. Our view ads feature – which enables Irish Facebook users to see all of the ads any advertiser is running on Facebook in Ireland at the same time – has been fast-tracked and is operational today.

The additional election integrity tools we are building include a verification process that requires the advertiser to be resident in the country where the election is taking place. What we are now doing for the referendum on the Eighth Amendment will allow us to operate as though these tools, which are not yet fully available, were in place today with respect to foreign referendum-related advertising. We feel the spirit of this approach is also consistent with the Irish electoral law that prohibits campaigns from accepting foreign donations.

This change will apply to ads we determine to be coming from foreign entities which are attempting to influence the outcome of the vote on May 25. We do not intend to block campaigns and advocacy organisations in Ireland from using service providers outside of Ireland.

We have also built relationships with political parties, groups representing both sides of the campaign and with the Transparent Referendum Initiative, who we are asking to notify us if they have concerns about ad campaigns. We will then assess and act on those reports. We will also be using machine learning to help us with this effort to identify ads that should no longer be running.

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.

This announcement follows previous referendum-related updates from Facebook:

  • On April 25th, Facebook launched the view ads feature in Ireland. This enables Irish Facebook users to see all of the ads any advertiser is running on Facebook in Ireland at the same time.
  • We are deploying Election Integrity Artificial Intelligence for the referendum, similar to what was established in advance of recent elections in France, Germany and Italy. Those efforts will direct our artificial intelligence capabilities to identify fake accounts, misinformation, or foreign interference.
  • In April, we hosted an information session for referendum campaign groups on Facebook’s advertising and content policies.
  • We have established a dedicated reporting channel for advocacy groups on both sides of the campaign, and for the Transparent Referendum Initiative, so that they can surface any issues they identify directly to us.
  • We have launched third-party fact-checking in Ireland through a new partnership with The Journal.ie. As a member of the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, The Journal.ie will review news stories, check their facts and rate their accuracy. This also includes the ability to evaluate certain photo and video content. Stories rated as false by TheJournal.ie will see their distribution significantly reduced.
  • In April, we ran a false news educational notice to help people in Ireland spot false news. Irish users saw a notice at the top of their News Feed which offered advice on how to spot false news, such as checking the URL of the site, investigating the source of the news and looking for further reports on the topic. We also placed educational adverts across Irish press with tips on how to spot false news.
  • Facebook Ireland is a member of Media Literacy Ireland and supportive of its aim of empowering people in Ireland with the skills and knowledge to engage with and understand traditional and new media.

 

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