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Google must answer questions about alleged referendum interference, Save the 8th says


27th June 2019

Google must answer questions about whether it or its employees engaged in an active campaign to prevent Irish voters from accessing information on its platforms during Ireland’s referendum on the 8th amendment, the former campaign group Save the 8th has said.

A document provided to a prominent American campaign group, Project Veritas, and released to the public, purports to show a vast list of topics blacklisted by YouTube during the referendum on the 8th amendment. These include subjects like “unborn life”, “repeal the 8th state funding”, and searches related to Ireland’s record on maternal safety. Campaign groups Life Institute and Save the 8th were also on the list. 

During the referendum campaign, Google suddenly and without explanation cancelled all advertising on its platforms, generating outrage amongst campaign groups, including Save the 8th, who had pre-booked substantial expenditures on those platforms and were subsequently unable to replace that advertising at short notice.

However, the allegations made by Project Veritas are of an even more serious nature, spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain says: “The allegation here is that google actively sought to prevent ordinary voters from accessing the full array of information on something as benign as “unborn life”. There is no explanation for interfering with the results for a search of that term that is not sinister.

In an era where the establishment appears to be engaged in a moral panic about the dangers of external election interference, it is patently obvious that the biggest meddlers in Irish elections are multinational corporations like google, who literally have the power to alter the information available to Irish voters without a word of criticism or oversight from the Irish media, or Irish political leadership.

At minimum, Google should be asked whether this document is accurate. If it is a false allegation, it is very important that we know this and that the public, especially many people who campaigned hard on the defeated side of that referendum, are reassured. If the allegation is true, Google must be required to explain in public why it took the steps that it did, and whether this was done at the instigation of anyone outside the company.

The public have a right to expect that referendum campaigns are conducted fairly, with equal opportunity for both sides to present their case. When a large corporation is engaged in an effort to block the most fundamental and basic elements of one side’s case from ever being heard, that is gravely concerning”. 

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