Facebook bans ads on Ireland's abortion referendum by foreign advertisers

U2 angered pro-life fans in Ireland after tweeting their stance about the Irish referendum on abortion

The Facebook social network said on Tuesday that it would not accept foreign ads related to the referendum of abortions that would be held in Ireland on May 25.

The move is a long time coming for some as Facebook has been criticised for its impact on the USA presidential election in 2016, and there have been questions raised about it influence over the UK's Brexit vote.

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

The eighth amendment to the Irish constitution recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

Repealing the amendment would enable laws allowing abortion of pregnancies up to 12 weeks.

The company said it would rely on reports from established campaign groups on both sides of the campaign to identify foreign-based ads, as its automated election integrity tools are still in development. 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.

Groups on both sides of the campaign were consulted before the changes were made. The Times previously reported that a US-based anti-abortion group had paid to target Irish voters...

The company said in a statement that the issue of organisations outside Ireland trying to influence the referendum is an issue it had 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".

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 firm added that it meant to provide an open platform "for people to express ideas and views on both sides of a debate".

However, the move will not prevent ads that are funded from overseas if they are placed through organisations located in Ireland.

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.

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