Facebook pilots new political advertising tool in the polarized Irish abortion referendum

STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Demonstrators gather and hold banners to protest for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution in Ireland, Brussels, Belgium, 24 September 2016. Eighth Amendment to the Constitution is the law against abortion in Ireland. Abortion was decriminalized in Belgium in 1990.

Facebook pilots new political advertising tool in the polarized Irish abortion referendum


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Facebook plans to test a new political advertising tool in the highly polarized abortion referendum campaign in Ireland, the TheJournal.ie reports.

The upcoming referendum on whether or not to repeal the Irish Eighth Constitutional Amendment has triggered a heated and divisive debate. For the last 35 years, Ireland has one of the strictest abortion regimes in Europe, comparable only to Poland’s. The constitutional provision that prohibits abortion was in-itself the product of a constitutional referendum, which pro-choice campaigners have fought to repeal.

In the context of this heated debate – and for the first time in Europe – Facebook will introduce a “View Ads” feature, providing users with access on both sides of the argument in the campaign.

Facebook’s Vice President of Global Public Policy, John Kaplan, testified before the Irish Parliament’s Communications committee on Tuesday, where he argued that the new tool could eliminate “foreign interference.”

He also said that the company has made great progress in identifying fake accounts during the German elections and has set up a special Task Force to oversee the Irish referendum campaign. Still, the sponsors of the content will not be made public during this campaign. Kaplan says that Facebook ultimately agrees that all ads should be verified and their sponsors should be clearly identified.

The focus on Facebook advertising comes in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with Facebook admitting to a major 87 million users data leak, of which just under 50,000 were in Ireland. Kaplan apologized for the violation of trust, in line with company’s policy of assuming responsibility.

During the 2016 US Presidential elections, the US accused Russia of interfering in its Presidential campaign, although Moscow has always denied similar allegations.

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