Dublin (CNN)Attempts by Facebook and Google to tackle "dark ads" and foreign interference in the run-up to Ireland's referendum on abortion haven't been entirely successful, data from a transparency group seen by CNN has shown.
'Dark ads' cast a shadow over Ireland's referendum on abortion
The Transparent Referendum Initiative (TRI), a volunteer organization set up to monitor social-media posts about the referendum has collected ads from 180 Facebook groups targeting Irish voters.
Facebook announced it would ban all ads from foreign groups on May 8, writing, "We understand the sensitivity of this campaign and will be working hard to ensure neutrality at all stages. We are an open platform for people to express ideas and views on both sides of a debate. Our goal is simple: to help ensure a free, fair and transparent vote on this important issue."
But TRI data shows that out of around 200 new ads related to the vote since that announcement, at least 31% have been administered at least in part by page managers outside Ireland.
Google also announced it would not accept any political ads on any side of the campaign last week. "Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment," a statement read.
Yet screenshots sent to TRI from voters in Ireland after that announcement showed ads continuing to appear on Google's platform.
Irish law bans foreign citizens and groups from making donations to campaign groups and prohibits political ads on television or radio broadcasts during campaigns. The ad bans do not extend online or on social, meaning anyone is open to buying an ad on platforms like Facebook or Google.
Ireland's abortion laws -- some of the most restrictive in the developed world -- are enshrined in the eighth amendment to the country's constitution, which places an unborn child's right to life on equal footing with that of the mother. On May 25, Ireland will vote to repeal or retain the amendment.
Transparency campaigners and a group of journalists, including CNN, worked with TRI data to identify Facebook pages related to the referendum managed by people outside Ireland. The most common locations were the US and the UK.
Those locations were revealed last Friday after Facebook accidentally rolled out a live tool still in the testing phase called "Page History." It showed the location of a Facebook page's manager or managers and how many people were administering it.
Preliminary analysis of that data by social media intelligence and news agency Storyful found that 81% of pro-repeal ads were managed solely in Ireland, compared to 37% of anti-repeal posts.
Savethe8th, a national anti-abortion group, are a staunch No