Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Technology James Lawless TD says the decision by Facebook to ban advertisers based outside of Ireland from placing adverts for the forthcoming referendum clearly demonstrates that there is a growing problem with transparency with online political campaigning.

Deputy Lawless added that the decision highlights the need for the Government to urgently introduce new measures to regulate political advertising on social media.

Deputy Lawless said, “While I welcome today’s announcement it is nonetheless important to recognise that it is a reactionary move taken in the heat of the moment. This action has been forced upon Facebook by growing public and political pressure. People are beginning to recognise that murky political activity on social media is having a corrosive effect on our democratic process.

“This decision should have been taken by Facebook before the campaign began rather than two weeks away from voting. The damage has already been done in many regards considering the fact that these murky adverts, paid for by unknown people based outside of Ireland, have been viewed by thousands of people who are not aware of their origin.

“It’s also important to keep in mind that this decision only relates to Facebook and does not encompass other social media platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and Google Ads which are still completely unregulated, voluntarily or otherwise.

“The Government appears to be coming on board with my Bill to regulate social media in this regard. This legislation could have been in place for the referendum and upcoming elections if they had come on board three months ago. Instead the Government decided to delay taking action on the issue and allowed murky campaigning activity to continue on the modern day equivalent of the wild-west of social media.

“The Government needs to be upfront on this issue. We need to see a detailed plan and timeline for bringing much needed regulation to political campaigning on social media,” concluded Deputy Lawless.