Facebook reveals ‘View Ads’ feature ahead of Eighth referendum in Ireland

18 Apr 2018

March for Choice demonstration in Dublin in September 2017. Image: Abd/Shutterstock

Ahead of the pivotal Eighth referendum in Ireland in May, Facebook will offer Irish users greater transparency with the ads they see.

Irish users are to be among the first in the world to gain access to a new ‘View Ads’ feature on Facebook.

The feature is being rolled out on 25 April, a month ahead of the Eighth referendum in Ireland on 25 May. It will be crucial as it will reveal all ads by advertisers ahead of the referendum.

The upcoming referendum will ask the Irish electorate if it wishes to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution. The Amendment grants equal rights to the mother and an unborn child, thus restricting legislation allowing for terminations to exceptional circumstances. It is a highly emotive debate in Ireland.

Facebook said that the new feature will offer people greater transparency with the ads they see on the platform, which is important in the context of the forthcoming referendum.

The feature was announced by Facebook’s vice-president for global policy, Joel Kaplan, during an appearance before an Oireachtas committee in the Irish parliament to answer questions on the Cambridge Analytica affair, which affected 87m users worldwide, including an estimated 45,000 Irish users.

Kaplan was accompanied by Facebook country manager for Ireland, Gareth Lambe, as well as its head of public policy, Niamh Sweeney.

He told the committee that Facebook is working hard to establish if further breaches may have occurred that may have in any way compromised users’ privacy.

The committee is adjourned until 24 April.

How new View Ads feature will work

The View Ads feature will enable Irish users to see all ads that an advertiser is running on Facebook at the same time, even if those ads are not in the user’s news feed.

Users will be able to click on the advertiser’s page, select ‘About’ and scroll to ‘View Active Ads’ where they will see all of the ads that the page is running on Facebook.

Facebook said the update is designed to help ensure that users have the information they need to assess all ads on Facebook, including political and issues-based ads.

The new feature is among a number of changes Facebook said it is making in terms of the management of ads and pages on its platform, as well as Instagram.

Following the global launch of the feature in June, a second phase will identify who has paid for particular ads as well as providing data on the reach of the ad.

The social network also launched a ‘false news’ educational notice in Ireland on 12 April to help users spot fake news in their feeds.

March for Choice demonstration in Dublin in September 2017. Image: Abd/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years