The great abortion battle is on again – this time in Ireland. The Emerald Isle will hold a referendum May 25 to decide whether to uphold or replace the eighth amendment to their constitution, which protects the equal right to life for the unborn. Meanwhile, Facebook and Google – which, of course, includes YouTube – have announced bans on advertisements regarding the referendum. The American tech giants claim this move protects the integrity of the Irish vote by preventing the spread of outside influence. Irish pro-life organizers, on the other hand, claim it’s to protect the call to repeal the eighth amendment from a No vote.
The Irish Eighth
The eighth amendment was added to the Irish Constitution in 1983. It prohibits abortion in almost all cases, stating:
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
As it stands today by that wording, the Irish Constitution only allows a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy if her life is in danger.
A Nation Divided
The government has promised to bring legislation that allows abortion up to 12 weeks, but the people of the isle are divided. According to a poll from the Irish Times, 56% of voters were in favor of changing the Constitution. That’s a majority, but not by much. Most of the “don’t know” folks reported leaning toward repeal, but as 15% of the total voters polled, that “don’t know” group certainly has the power to decide the referendum.
Facebook announced that it would suspend all ads relating to the Irish abortion referendum originating from outside of Ireland; shortly after, Google and YouTube announced the suspension of all related ads, period. It is entirely without irony that Google and Facebook – American companies, the both of them – claim that their bans protect Irish votes from outside interference.
For those unsure of Google’s political leanings, some additional reading is in order. The same goes for Facebook. Both companies are undeniably left-leaning. But these two American companies aren’t the only leftists interfering with the referendum, and that’s a big part of why the Irish pro-life folks aren’t buying their ostensibly altruistic motives.
An emergency press conference was called by the Pro Life Campaign, Save the 8th, and the Iona Institute shortly after the announcement. According to them, the ban was “because one side in this referendum is terrified of losing and wants to prevent voters from being informed.” According to Pro Life campaigner John McGuirk, “It’s very clear that the Government, much of the establishment media and corporate Ireland have determined that anything that needs to be done to secure a Yes vote must be done.”
Maria Steen of the Iona Institute claims that about half of the posters put up by the No side have been taken down – at an estimated loss of €100,000 to the campaigners. Censorship – that’s what it is, if these pro-life campaigners are to be believed. If Google, YouTube, and Facebook won’t carry any ads, and the Yes side is the only side allowed to keep their signs up, then the anti-abortion activists’ message is effectively stifled.
Where Does It Go from Here?
Even if the world’s most used search engine, video host, and social media platform aren’t actively trying to bury the Irish pro-life movement, the implications of a ban on political advertisements are huge. Facebook has already claimed that it will employ the same methods in future Irish elections and referendums, and is considering doing the same in the U.S. Google, on the other hand, has not stated how it will act, if at all, in future cases. Such measures moving forward would, it seems, bring political advertising back to a pre-social media state.
As is usually the case, only time will tell. It certainly seems that banning advertisements relating to this case helps the government, corporate, and establishment media side of this referendum – that is, the leftist, pro-abortion side. If Google or Facebook, or both, fail to take the same action in the next election or referendum in Ireland – or anywhere else in the world, for that matter – they’ll give up their current position as naked political meddling and their currently espoused reasons as lies.