16 days to go…Mass appeal….Google’s abortion vote proves its power must be curbed

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to Ireland’s referendum on whether or not to retain or repeal the pro-life 8th amendment to the Irish constitution which gives equal right to life to mother and unborn baby.

The big news today is the decision by Google to block all advertisements which were favouring the no side of the campaign from you tube etc. to the joy of the pro abortion / repeal side who publicly praised the decision and rendered all the strategic planning by the pro-life camp for targeting undecided voters of which there are many in the final fortnight of the campaign, in disarray.

Facebook had already blocked any ads from outside Ireland but Google blocked them from within. The Yes side were complaining repeatedly that the no side’s online presence was fake news and there were repeated reports that the no side were gaining traction through the social media campaign.

On a much much smaller note, two social media experts who we consulted over the blocking of our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/irishunborn one month ago without any appeal rights and with no right to reply, are unable to explain based on what we showed them, why facebook blocked us on day 41 of the campaign when we were posting Professor Frederic Amant world leader in the field of cancer treatment of pregnant women’s good news story that both treated women and their babies are no worse off than any group who terminate their pregnancies.

They cannot understand why facebook blocked us.

Below the article by the Irish Times on Google’s block today:


Caveat: Constitution is for Ireland and is not a multinational’s mission statement

If you are a Yes supporter in the upcoming abortion vote, you may have punched the air on Wednesday when Google, just 16 days from polling day, suddenly banned all referendum advertisements, including those from legitimate Irish campaigners.

If you are a No supporter, you may have punched the wall, at what looks like the hobbling of your side’s strategy at the 11th hour. It was well-known that No had a huge edge over Yes in online ads, and was relying on this to reach undecided voters as referendum day closed in. The Yes side were complaining about it all week.

Emotions are running high on both sides of the debate. One woman even knifed the explicit posters of an anti-abortion group outside The Irish Timesoffice this week. But, if you can, please try to set aside your bias for a moment – your Yes joy at Google’s decision or your No despair – and think of the potential ramifications of this corporate intervention in Irish constitutional politics. For that is what it is.

Does it not concern you that executives unknown, at a Californian-headquartered, New York-listed technology behemoth can take a sudden, seemingly arbitrary decision at the height of an Irish referendum campaign, potentially affecting the wording of Bunreacht na hÉireann? It terrifies me.

The Yes side, which was emphasising ground campaigning, is delighted about Google’s ban, while No, which now has little time to pivot from digital, is distraught.

The political editor of The Irish Times, Pat Leahy, has received indications from his sources that Facebook and Google “became fearful in the past week that if the referendum was defeated, they would be the subject of an avalanche of blame” because No was more effectively using their platforms to target voters.

Foreign interference

But at least, when Facebook banned only foreign ads targeting Irish voters, earlier this week, it seemed likely to purify our national debate. Google’s decision, the practical impact of which blatantly benefits one campaign side in a referendum at the expense of the other, is the very definition of foreign interference in our system. Why did it not just ban foreign ads like Facebook?

When we talk about “corporate citizens”, nobody ever intended that they would potentially have an influence in the make-up of our Constitution. Bunreacht na hÉireann is a legal bedrock written by the people, not some corporate mission statement.

Perhaps you do not care. You just want your side to win the vote and for the other shower to lose, and you’ll take any help you can get, even if it comes via a $754 billion, stock-market-listed US company. Brexiteers and Trump gained murky advantage through online. Revenge. The end justifies the means, you know?

On a human level, that thinking is understandable. But that does not make it right.

What will you do if, the next time a foreign corporate entity intervenes in a passionate Irish politic event, you are on the wrong side of the argument? If, like Sir Thomas More’s angry foresters in A Man for All Seasons, we chop down all our principles now, how could we stand upright in the winds that would then blow?

Google says it banned all abortion referendum ads, even domestic ones, to protect “election integrity”. It is not terribly reassuring to think that such fundamental action could be outsourced to a US company worth more than twice Ireland’s economy. Better to let real citizens, and not self-interested corporate ones, do that protecting.

Societal steering

There has long been an argument that Facebook and Google should be economically regulated in the same manner as public utilities. They are the gatekeepers of so much of the digital economy, or so the theory goes, and are as fundamental to everyday western living as our water or power systems.

By dint of their knowledge of our every whim and peccadillo, their power to influence and their opacity (Google has so far flatly refused to further explain its decision), we should take our societal steering wheel back from this digital duopoly.

Regulate them more effectively. Draft laws to limit their influence, their power. I cannot tell you precisely what those laws should be – that is a nut for legislators to crack. But draft laws to better limit their influence over legislators, too.

Could you imagine a regulated utility such as An Post, at a minute to midnight in an important referendum campaign, suddenly backtracking to cancel all political mail drops in a move that, practically, would favour the strategy of one side over another?

Precisely that argument was advanced on Wednesday by the No campaign, in a heated debate over Google’s decision. You don’t have to be in the No camp to see the merit of the argument. Except, of course, if you’re deliberately looking the other way.

But herein lies the rub. It will be hard for our politicians to curb the power of the digital giants when they are cuddled up beside them beneath the duvet, giggling sweetly into each other’s ears about all those lovely jobs and their voluptuous contributions to the State’s economic coffers.
















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