'Yes' group welcomes Google's ad ban as 'No' campaigners slam 'attempt to rig the referendum'

All referendum-related ads will be blocked on Google and YouTube from tomorrow

'Yes' group welcomes Google's ad ban as 'No' campaigners slam 'attempt to rig the referendum'

Photo: Sam Boal /Rollingnews.ie

Both sides of the abortion debate have offered different responses to Google's decision to suspend advertisements related to the Eighth Amendment referendum.

Yes campaigners have suggested it creates a 'level playing field', while No campaigners have claimed it is an attempt to 'rig the referendum'.

Google said its decision - which includes ads on YouTube - comes as part of its "election integrity efforts globally".

The changes will come into effect over the next 24 hours, and the ads will remain suspended until the vote on May 25th.

It comes a day after Facebook announced it was no longer accepting Eighth Amendment adverts from outside Ireland.

Google's move has been welcomed by Together For Yes, the umbrella group of civil society organisations campaigning for a 'Yes' vote.

File photo of Ailbhe Smyth. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

In a statement, campaign co-director Ailbhe Smyth said: "This creates a level playing field between all sides, specifically in relation to YouTube and Google searches, who can now seek to convince the Irish electorate by the strength of their argument and power of personal testimony, not by the depth of their pockets.

"We believe this referendum will be won on facts, and now when undecided voters are searching online, they’ll see the most relevant answers to their questions - not the ones that are paid to be put in front of them."

"That platform is now being undermined"

Meanwhile, the Save the 8th group, the Iona Institute and Pro Life Campaign held an 'emergency press conference' this afternoon in response to Google's move.

John McGuirk speaking to the media about Google’s decision to remove adverts to do with the 8th Referendum on their platform. Photo: Sam Boal /Rollingnews.ie

In a statement, they said: "This decision by Google is not about 'concerns about the integrity of elections'. It is about concerns that that the No side might win.

“It is very clear that the Government, much of the establishment media, and corporate Ireland have determined that anything that needs to be done to secure a Yes vote, must be done. In this case, it means preventing campaigns that have done nothing illegal from campaigning in a perfectly legal manner."

It added: "Online was the only platform available to the No campaign to speak to voters directly. That platform is now being undermined."

John McGuirk, communications director for Save The 8th, yesterday welcomed Facebook's decision to ban adverts from outside Ireland:

Speaking today following Google's announcement, Mr McGuirk said: "There's a reason Together For Yes are celebrating today, and sending out celebratory tweets, and that's because they see this as a massive victory for their side of the referendum.

"Who are we accusing of rigging the referendum? Government ministers, Yes campaigners and frankly a lot of journalists who've been putting immense pressure on these organisations."

Reporting by Stephen McNeice and Stephanie Grogan