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Google halts ads related to Ireland's upcoming abortion referendum

(Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)Demonstrators take part in a protest to urge the Irish Government to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution, which enforces strict limitations to a woman's right to an abortion, in Dublin, Ireland September 24, 2016.

Google has announced that it will no longer run advertisements related to the upcoming referendum to repeal Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn.

Beginning on Thursday, Google and its video-sharing platform YouTube will refrain from displaying advertisements related to the referendum, which will take place on May 25, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

A Google spokesperson said that the decision was part of the company's efforts to protect "election integrity."

"Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment," the spokesperson said, as reported by RTE.

Web searches will not be affected by the ban on referendum campaign advertisements.

Google's announcement came after Facebook banned foreign-backed advertisements about the referendum.

Ireland prohibits foreigners from donating to political campaigns, but the restriction does not apply to social media advertising, according to the AP. Some of the online advertisements about the referendum were reportedly bought by pro-life groups based in the U.S.

James Lawless, a technology spokesperson for Ireland's Fianna Fail party, commended the decision by Google and Facebook, but lamented that "they are rushed and they are coming at the 11th hour."

"It's a step in the right direction, but it's an awful pity we couldn't have done this six months ago," he said, according to AP.

Some of the campaigners in favor of retaining the Eighth Amendment have lamented that Google's decision was not due to concerns over election integrity but over concerns that the No side would win.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of Save the Eighth urged the media to ask Google to provide evidence that the elections will be compromised by the advertisements.

Lawless expressed concern about the advertisements from both camps in the referendum and has introduced a legislation that would require online advertisers to disclose the publishers and sponsors behind advertisements.

"Some quite disingenuous ads have been going around in recent weeks targeting people who are in the middle that aren't always from who they seem to be from. What we really need is legislation and we need a proper, robust thought-out approach," he said, as reported by AP.

The referendum will be asking voters to decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which bans abortions in Ireland in most circumstances.

Government leaders will consider introducing a bill to legalize abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy if the Eighth amendment is repealed.

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