Pro-life Advocates in Ireland: Google is Rigging the Referendum

May 10, 2018

  Roxana Stanciu

Google announced on May 9th that it would ban all advertising related to the Irish abortion referendum from its platforms. The company said the decision followed its “update around election integrity efforts globally” and that it would “pause” such adverts as of May 10th.In practice, this means that no ads related to the referendum will appear on Google’s search engine or on YouTube.

The decision, coming just over two weeks before the referendum on a repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, was swiftly and severely criticised by pro-life advocates in the country. On May 25th, Irish voters will decide whether to retain the guarantee to the ‘right to life of the unborn’ and ensure abortion remains illegal, or to repeal the 8th and permit abortion on demand by allowing unrestricted abortion access up to the 12th week of pregnancy.


“Shutting down a free and fair debate”


Pro-Life Campaign, Save the 8th, and the Iona Institute said in a joint statement that the tech giant’s decision is “shutting down a free and fair debate”.

They stressed that the decision has been made “because one side in this referendum is terrified of losing and wants to prevent voters from being informed”.

“It is 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,” said John McGuirk, the spokesperson for Save the 8th.

A statementfrom all three campaign groups for a No vote said that the move “is scandalous, and is an attempt to rig the referendum”.

Niamh Uí Bhriain from Save the 8th asked: “Was it because the polls are tightening? Was it because it looks like this referendum which is absolutely supported by the media establishment and the political establishment is going to be rejected by the people?”


Silencing the pro-life message


“This decision is not about ‘concerns about the integrity of elections’,” noted the joint statement. “It is about concerns the No side will win. (…) 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 of one side. This is completely unacceptable, and it brings the conduct of what had, heretofore, been a civil campaign into severe disrepute”.

John McGuirk of Save the 8th said that pro-life advocates will now lose out significant advertising space which has been pre-booked since last year for the final two weeks of the campaign.


Who does Google favour?


David Quinn of the Iona Institute challenged Google to show evidence that the integrity of the referendum campaign had been compromised. John McGuirk added: “If you wanted further evidence of whom the Google move favours, look no further than the reaction of Yes campaigners and supporters”.

Niamh Uí Bhriain observed, “It is very significant that Yes campaigners rushed out today to welcome this censorship of the NO message. Because, of course, the YES side in this referendum does not need Google to campaign”.