Facebook to trial ads tool in Ireland ahead of abortion referendum

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will become the second country to trial a new tool that Facebook hopes will ensure greater transparency in political advertising, when it holds a referendum on abortion next month, the company’s vice president for global policy said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration photo, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Facebook introduced the tool this month as part of steps to deter the kind of election meddling and online information warfare that U.S. authorities have accused Russia of pursuing, although Moscow has denied the allegations.

The ‘view ads’ tool, which allows users to view all the ads a particular advertiser is running in that jurisdiction, has been successfully tested in Canada, Joel Kaplan said.

“As of April 25, we will add Ireland to our pilot program to the first phase of our transparency efforts, the ‘view ads’. Ireland will be the second and only other country that we roll out before the global deployment,” Kaplan told an Irish parliamentary committee.

“We hope that this will bring greater transparency to ads running in the context of the forthcoming referendum on the eighth amendment” of the Irish constitution, he said.

Facebook has been swamped by privacy concerns since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.

Kaplan said the tool would probably be rolled out globally by mid-June.

The Irish referendum on whether or not to liberalize its abortion laws will give voters the first opportunity in 35 years to overhaul one of the world’s strictest regimes that has long divided the once deeply Catholic nation.

The divisive nature of the issue has prompted concern that social media ads could be targeted to influence voter behavior.

The Transparent Referendum Initiative, a voluntary group set up to campaign for greater transparency over social media ads ahead of the vote, said the move was a positive first step and called on other advertisers such as Google and YouTube to follow suit.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Hugh Lawson