Pro-choice supporters in Parliament Square in London ahead of 25th of May Referendum to remove the eighth amendment from Irish Constitution, on May 5, 2018.
Wiktor Szymanowicz—Barcroft Media/Getty Images
By Casey Quackenbush
May 9, 2018

Under heightened scrutiny for its role in influencing recent political campaigns, Facebook announced it is banning foreign ads relating to Ireland’s upcoming referendum on abortion.

The decision follows intense international criticism over attempts to use the social media company’s platform to sway voters in elections, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Britain’s Brexit referendum, Reuters reports.

“As part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence, we will begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland,” said Facebook in a statement on its website.

On May 25, Irish voters will take part in a referendum on whether to liberalize Ireland’s divisive abortion laws, which are some of the strictest rules in the world. The procedure is illegal in the Catholic-majority Republic of Ireland, with terminations not allowed in cases of rape or incest, according to the BBC.

U.S.-based pro-life groups are among those who have bought online ads in the country ahead of the vote, ABC reports. Last month, the Irish data protection commissioner said it was possible foreign actors could try to sway the referendum.

Facebook said it is still developing automated election integrity tools, so the company would rely on campaign groups to identify the foreign ads.

A new “view ads” tool, which is still in trial mode after launching on April 25, allows users to see all of the ads an advertiser is running on the site in Ireland.

Write to Casey Quackenbush at casey.quackenbush@timeinc.com.

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