IRELAND – Facebook and anti-abortion advertisements during the Irish referendum on 8th amendment

In June 2019, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg claims he decided to ban foreign anti-abortion advertisements on the site in the months before the referendum on the 8th Amendment to the Constitution after Irish officials at the Standards in Public Office Commission failed to offer legal guidance because there was no law to base guidance on. He also claimed he did not believe a private company should be taking such decisions. He said he ended up not allowing advertisements from any advertisers outside Ireland.

However, the Sunday Times reports, Liz Carolan, a founder of Transparent Referendum Initiative (TRI), which monitored online advertising during the referendum campaign, said the only pro-choice advertisement from outside the state it saw came from the European Green Party. Even after the Facebook ban took effect, she claimed, British pro-life groups were able to advertise on the platform right up until polling day. She also said Facebook was not doing this work on its own and that TRI approached them to raise the issue of foreign interference in the referendum as early as February 2018.

The government has promised to reform regulation in the area, but no action has been taken since an open policy forum on the issue last December. A government spokesman said it was “currently considering the next steps on this issue”.

SOURCE: The Sunday Times, by Brian Mahon, 14 July 2019 ; PHOTO: by Getty Images

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Health Minister Simon Harris accused of inaction over abortion protest exclusion zones 

An anti-abortion group staged a protest, making women push part them at the entrance to the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin with three small white coffins and said they had plans to return on 13 July.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik accused the Health Minister of allowing the issue to “fall off the agenda” and that women accessing healthcare had been left to deal with the fallout. “Nobody should be shamed or judged while entering a GP’s surgery. Nobody should have to see the images and props used by these groups as they leave a maternity hospital…. The law providing for access to abortion services is not enough, we must ensure that women have safe access too.”

Health Minister Health Simon Harris said: “What happened… was pretty disgusting. We shouldn’t have to change the law to have a basic understanding of decency.” He said he was working on legislation to bring in the new term. He said he supported the right to hold a rally somewhere, even if he disagreed with it. “But turning up with three children’s coffins… outside our national maternity hospital is a new level of low.” 

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone said that exclusion zones will be an absolute priority in the next term of the parliament.

SOURCE: The Journal, 10 July 2019   SOURCE: The Journal, 11 July 2019