Google U-turn on abortion adverts ahead of Irish referendum

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Kent Walker Senior Vice President Published

Google announced plans on Wednesday to suspend advertisements related to Ireland's May 25 abortion referendum, sparking an angry response from anti-abortion activists who said the move would hurt them most.

"Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have chose to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment", said a Google spokesperson.

Now in Ireland, social media and internet companies are not banned from accepting ads from groups outside of the state, while campaign groups are not allowed to receive foreign funding.

"Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have made a decision to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment", the company said in a statement. The vote is due to take place in a little over two weeks time.

This comes one day after Facebook has announced that they will not allow referendum ads from foreign sources on the site.

The Together for Yes group, the umbrella group campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum, confirmed that it maintained regular contact with Facebook and Google regarding online ads, sometimes complaining that anti-abortion ads breached the companies' standards. Google followed with its own announcement on Wednesday.

The ban will go into effect in the next 24 hours and will last until the campaign is over.

McGuirk added that, on the back of today's decision to ban online advertising through Google, it made it more likely that individuals would challenge the result of the referendum in the courts in the event of a Yes vote.

But they do not prevent social media and internet companies from carrying ads from such people or groups.

However this USA -first focus leaves other regions vulnerable to election fiddlers - hence Google deciding to suspend ad buys around the Irish vote, albeit tardily.

Google is making this decision amidst concern that ads from overseas could have an impact on the democratic process here in Ireland. Says Google must provide evidence that integrity of elections has been compromised.

Facebook has also announced a raft of similar transparency steps related to political ads in recent years - responding to political pressure and scrutiny following revelations about the extent of Kremlin-backed online disinformation campaigns that had targeted the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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