Eighth Amendment ads: Facebook acts, but how will it work?

Facebook says it will now reject ads paid for by foreign entities, so how does this work?

Facebook has some automated tools at its disposal that will help identify the ads and reject them.

Facebook has some automated tools at its disposal that will help identify the ads and reject them.

 

What has Facebook done?

The social media platform said it will no longer accept advertisements aimed at the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment if they are funded by organisations outside the country. From May 8th, these ads will be rejected.

Why?

There are concerns that Facebook’s ad network could be used by foreign groups to influence the result of the referendum on May 25th. It’s not without merit; Facebook has been criticised for its impact on the US presidential election in 2016, and there have been questions raised about it influence over the UK’s Brexit vote.

How will Facebook police it?

A combination of machine learning and good old fashioned people power. Facebook has some automated tools at its disposal that will help identify the ads and reject them.

Just in case any slip through the net, the advocacy groups and the Transparent Referendum Initiative will also have input into the reporting process. The groups have a dedicated communications channel with Facebook that they can use to report campaigns they suspect may be paid for by groups outside the country.

Facebook will then investigate and assess the ads.

This was already in the works. Facebook is building a suite of tools that, once complete, will require advertisers to register and be verified before they can take out a political or “issue” ad. Part of that will require the advertiser to be resident in the country where the election is taking place.

Facebook also brought forward the introduction of its “view ads” tool that allows users to see all the ads a page is running on Facebook at a particular time.

Can I report an ad?

No. There is no facility for ordinary users to report the ads directly to Facebook. However, the advocacy groups on both sides of the issue have a direct line to Facebook for this very purpose. You could bring it to their attention and let them decide if it warrants reporting.

What does it mean for advertising around the referendum?

Very little for groups based in Ireland. Facebook said it would only block ads that are coming from outside the country, and it doesn’t intend to stop advertising from Irish-based groups who are using service providers outside of Ireland - that is, groups can still use agencies to run their ad campaigns.

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