- 25 Feb 19
Facebook co-operated with malign forces to undermine the democratic process during the Brexit campaign in the UK, and the US Presidential election. Now, with European elections due soon, action must be taken to prevent a repeat across the continent.
Hot Press was the first publication in Ireland to properly raise the alarm about the role that social media was capable of playing in the Irish political arena. We were concerned at the time about the kind of covert, and deliberately misleading, advertising that might attempt to sway opinion in the run-up to the abortion referendum in 2018. The possibility of a deliberate attempt to manipulate the democratic process in Ireland by anti-choice organisations, with huge resources, based in the US, loomed large.
With that in mind, we asked what safeguards were in place to ensure that false, misleading or malicious ads would not be enabled by social media and search engine giants; what controls existed in relation to the source of ads; and had any limits been placed on the amounts that might be spent on referendum-related advertising?
We didn’t get any answers. But in the final weeks of the referendum campaign, as pressure mounted, Facebook finally banned ‘foreign’ ads relating to the abortion referendum. And Google went a step further, banning all referendum-related advertising.