Vote No campaigners claim that Google's ad-ban favours Yes vote in abortion referendum 8 months ago

Vote No campaigners claim that Google's ad-ban favours Yes vote in abortion referendum

At a joint press conference on Wednesday, No campaigners said that the move was taken out of fear the No side might win.

Several prominent pro-life groups held a joint press conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a decision made by Google this week that all ads related to the forthcoming abortion referendum will be henceforth banned from the website. 

Groups campaigning for a No vote in the upcoming Eighth Amendment referendum slated the decision, deeming the move as an attempt to “rig” the vote in favour of the Yes side.

Together For Yes, however, argued that the banning of ads on Google will ensure a level playing field between both sides of the referendum.

Campaign Co-Director Ailbhe Smyth said of the ban: “We welcome confirmation today from Google that they are going to stop running political advertisements over the next 24 hours.

"This creates a level playing field between all sides, specifically in relation to YouTube and Google searches, who can now seek to convince the Irish electorate by the strength of their argument and power of personal testimony, not by the depth of their pockets.

“We believe this referendum will be won on facts, and now when undecided voters are searching online, they’ll see the most relevant answers to their questions - not the ones that are paid to be put in front of them," Smyth concluded.

Communications Director from the Save the 8th campaign, John McGuirk, who welcomed Facebook's decision to ban referendum content, announced at the press conference that he believes Google's announcement was made "in the face of a sustained campaign from the 'Yes' side to suggest that the 'No' campaign is doing something wrong by investing its funding in online advertising."

"We're suddenly being told that we will no longer be allowed to speak to voters on our channels, and we think that is outrageous," McGuirk said.

"I think what's happening here is that legitimate campaigners are being told they can't spread their message, and that is wrong."

Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins rebutted McGuirk's comments, stating that "all sides are affected equally by this measure."

"What is happening here is not about one side or the other, it's about democracy and transparency," Higgins said.

"There are no regulations in this area of online advertising, and I would prefer if we had more nuanced and detailed legislation."

On Wednesday morning, Google announced the ban on all referendum-related advertisements on its platform, including ads on YouTube and Google Adwords.

This follows a decision made by social media giant Facebook to ban all ads on its platform related to the referendum that are produced by advertisers based outside of Ireland.

Concerns have been raised in recent times about the unregulated nature of online advertising, with the No side having recently been questioned in regards to the validity of their posters.

Online targeting in the context of the upcoming vote was also a concern that was highlighted.

It is understood that Google was made aware of concerns surrounding online advertising, with the ban on adverts related to the referendum to take effect by Thursday and to continue until the referendum on 25 May.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, Google said: “Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment."