Foreign and ‘alt-right’ activists are targeting Irish voters on Facebook ahead of next month’s abortion referendum
Foreign and ‘altright’ activists – as well as bots – are targeting Irish voters on Facebook ahead of next month’s referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to the Constitution.
Advertising on social media platforms is not covered by Ireland’s ban on foreigners making donations to Irish parties or campaign groups.
The organisation openDemocracy 50.50 last week published data which it said showed 145 groups and individuals bought more than 350 Facebook ads about the referendum. Although most of the advertisers – including both anti-abortion and pro-choice groups – are based in Ireland there are foreign organisations on the list.
open Democracy said one of the many video adverts features a rising star in far-right media who has previously made YouTube videos entitled “the alt-right isn’t dead” or “white supremacy & the KKK.”
Foreign organisations on the list of advertisers appear to be primarily from the united States and Canada.
One of the American groups is called Expectant mother Care (EmC) Frontline Pregnancy Centers which says on its website that it “rescue(s) moms and babies” in new York City which it describes as “the abortion capital.” Earlier this year it was fined for misleading women about their healthcare options.
openDemocracy’s analysis of the data came as Facebook launched a new feature last week in response to criticism that it has enabled powerful groups to unduly influence public opinion and elections.
The tool, set for a global launch this summer, is getting an early launch in Ireland ahead of the referendum. It allows users to see all ads that advertisers are running and is supposed to make it harder for advertisers to target individuals without their knowledge.