Facebook isn’t going to let the clusterfuck of the 2016 U.S. election debacle happen again.
Starting Tuesday, the social network has banned all foreign advertisements related to Ireland’s abortion referendum, happening in a few weeks time.
On May 25, Ireland will vote to repeal or keep the country’s constitutional ban on abortion, and the Associated Press reports that U.S. based anti-abortion groups have secured online ads to try and influence this vote. Sounds familiar.
In a statement to the news agency, Facebook said it would “begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland.”
“We understand the sensitivity of this campaign and will be working hard to ensure neutrality at all stages. Our goal is simple: to help ensure a free, fair and transparent vote on this important issue.”
“Our goal is simple: to help ensure a free, fair and transparent vote on this important issue.”
According to AP, Facebook is testing a new process that will confirm whether or not an advertiser taking out political ads is located within the country holding that particular vote — and with the 2018 U.S. midterms coming up, it’s significant timing.
Facebook has also reportedly launched a new “view ads” tool in Ireland, which will allow Irish users to see every single ad an advertiser is running, not just the one they’re being served.
It appears Facebook is trying to appear proactive where regulations may be slow to catch up — in Ireland, overseas political donations are banned, but foreign social media ads aren’t.
And look, Facebook needs to do something. To recap, as if you needed to, the company said as many as 126 million users could have seen ads from the Russian “Internet Research Agency” during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. These ads pushed divisive issues like gun rights, immigration fears, and racial strife, according to Facebook, and were often imbalanced with regard to the candidates: mostly pro-Donald Trump, anti-Hillary Clinton.
The announcement also heralds an apparent move toward transparency for Facebook, which is still reeling from the Cambridge Analytica scandal which harvested data from more than 87 million Facebook users. More announcements please.