On May 25, 2018, Irish voters will vote on repealing Article 40.3.3 – known as the eighth amendment – which since 1983 has given unborn foetuses and pregnant women an equal right to life, in effect enshrining a ban on abortion in the country’s constitution. Following the controversy around Cambridge Analytica and its influence on the US presidential election and Brexit referendum, there has been concern that outside influence could swing the vote, in a country with just 3.2m eligible voters.
In May, Google announced a ban on all ads relating to the referendum and Facebook announced that it was blocking all foreign referendum advertising. However, Facebook is still a major factor in this campaign. In an attempt to build a picture of how both sides of the referendum are using Facebook to influence voters, the Transparency Initiative Referendum has been examining adverts, including boosted posts, that have appeared in the feeds of 600 Irish-based Facebook users. For a report on the study, see The Guardian’s How Facebook is influencing the Irish abortion referendum. — Joe