Transparency group wants US senators to quiz Zuckerberg on abortion ads

Campaigners seek clarity on anonymous ads targeting Irish voters on Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington, Monday, April 9th. Photograph: AP

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington, Monday, April 9th. Photograph: AP


The Transparent Referendum Initiative is lobbying US senators to quiz Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg on the abortion referendum when he meets senators in Washington on Tuesday.

The group, which is seeking to promote the transparency of online campaign advertisements, wants senators to ask Facebook to identify the purchasers of online ads designed to influence the Irish abortion debate.

The Dublin-based initiative is a voluntary effort to promote the transparency of online advertising during the abortion referendum. Currently, while there is a legal obligation on campaigns to identify the printed advertisements and literature they produce, online advertising is unregulated.

Mr Zuckerberg is due to appear before a Senate committee in Washington on Tuesday to answer questions about his company’s use of user data.

The hearings follow recent revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a UK firm, used Facebook data to help Donald Trump target voters during the US presidential election in 2016.

Broad apology

Mr Zuckerberg will issue a broad apology at the hearing, according to a copy of his testimony released on Monday. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he will say.

The committee has been asked to question Mr Zuckerberg about anonymous online advertisements increasingly appearing to Irish voters.

One of the initiative’s founders, Liz Carolan, told senators in a letter that US technology companies, including Facebook, are allowing political advertising targeting Irish voters to be purchased from anywhere in the world, bypassing our domestic institutions.

“We ask that you put the following question to them during your committee meeting: is Facebook willing to implement full transparency of political ads that they have accepted that have targeted Irish voters, together with any information they hold on the person or organisations who paid them to promote the content?”

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