Anti-abortion activists cry foul as Google pulls all referendum ads

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice posters are seen outside the home of Amy Callahan who received a fatal foetal diagnosis at 12 weeks into her pregnancy and travelled to Liverpool for a termination in Dublin, Ireland, May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Google announced plans on Wednesday to suspend advertisements related to Ireland’s May 25 abortion referendum, sparking an angry response from anti-abortion activists who said the move would hurt them most.

The policy change comes a day after Facebook FB.O said it would no longer accept ads from outside the country that seek to influence the referendum.

Google GOOGL.O went one step further and said it would not accept any ads related to the referendum, not just those from groups or individuals seeking to sway the vote.

“Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment,” a Google spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Ireland’s referendum on whether to liberalize its abortion laws will give voters the first opportunity in 35 years to repeal a constitutional ban that has long divided the once deeply Catholic nation.

Google’s policy change will be effective from May 10 and includes YouTube ads. It will remain in place until after the referendum.

Anti-abortion campaigners reacted with fury to the move, arguing it will deprive them of a key platform for their message and represents a bid to help those favoring a more liberal abortion regime.

“Its scandalous, and it is an attempt to rig the referendum,” umbrella group Save the 8th said in a statement.

“Online was the only platform available to the No campaign to speak to voters directly. That platform is now being undermined in order to prevent the public from hearing the message from one side.”

Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by Richard Balmforth