Google Ads Ban to hit ‘No Campaign’ in Referendum

Google Ads Ban to hit ‘No Campaign’ in Referendum

May 11, 2018

Google announced that it is no longer running ads in relation to the upcoming Abortion referendum on May 25th. The ban extends to YouTube and Google Ads and takes effect from yesterday.

The decision to ban all ads relating to the abortion referendum is a significant departure for online tech giant and could be a defining moment in the overall referendum campaign.

Google’s decision comes just a day after Facebook said it would ban all online ads about the referendum originating from outside Ireland.

If you ever wondered about the effectiveness of Google Ads tune into the debate in reaction to this unprecedented move over the coming 48 hours.

According to the Irish Times the ‘No’ side had planned to invest heavily in this platform with a key focus on undecided voters in the final 3 days of the campaign.

Google’s decision goes much further than Facebook’s, and if such an investment was planned the ban deprives No campaigners of a key part of their strategy going into the final weeks of the campaign.

Google said its decision was part of its “election integrity” efforts, but have offered little else by way of explanation.

The lack of transparency or an expanded rationale is likely to frustrate the ‘No’ side immensely, but also other commentators looking to hold these tech giants to account.

Going forward we have to ask will this be applied to all referenda going forward in other jurisdictions? All elections?

Together For Yes director Ailbhe Smyth said that they “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”.

Is this the curtailing of free speech or part of the bid to clean up newsfeeds and remove fake news? Some of this ad content is of a very graphic nature. I’ve reported several ads as inaccurate or misleading that have appeared on my own Facebook newsfeed.

The backdrop to all this are the charges levelled at both Facebook and Google in relation to fake news and their impact on the results in both the 2016 US Presidential election and the UK’s Brexit referendum also in 2016.

A poll running on the is overwhelmingly in favour of the blanket ban on all Google Ads (77%, 12,069 votes) with 10% (1,569) saying only foreign ads should be banned; 10% are not in favour of the ban.

Given the nature of much of the advertising for this referendum, the at times charged tone of the debates and the confusion around basic facts we may also be seeing a large dose of referendum fatigue setting in!

Simon Geraghty, Strategy Director

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