Anti-choice groups freak out as google bans referendum ads - what had they planned?


A few hours ago the referendum campaign in Ireland took an unexpected turn when google announced it was banning all referendum based advertising across all its platforms including Youtube. The howls of outrage from the anti-choice No campaign has been going on ever since.

This reaction across the No campaigns is telling. For the first time spokespeople are posting about No losing the referendum & suggesting the whole vote is rigged. Which makes you wonder what nasty online ads they were intending to run in the last 10 days?

We've been pointing to the problem of cash being used to push nasty misleading messaging online for some months and in recent days some parts of the mainstream media have started to report on this. What may have triggered todays call by google was the discovery that a Cambridge Analytica style quiz had been pushed at people in Ireland via google. Such quizzes were used in Brexit and the Trump election to carry out psychological profiling to identify those vulnerable to nasty dark ad messaging

What's important with dark ad strategies is that only those vulnerable to the messages of fear and hate are served the nastier ones. You don't want to alienate voters who may be shocked by bigoted messaging if it was visible to all. This also allows you to simultaneously lie to progressive voters as the No campaigns have been doing when they pretend compassion for women in crisis pregnancies.

It may well be this - along with No ads being targetted to children's channels - that resulted in Google doing a sudden 180 and banning all ads. No campaign ads have been appearing in front of Pippa the Pig youtube videos. This, like the placing of posters around schools, is intended to traumatise children so their upset puts pressure on parents.

Google, unlike the rest of us, can see who is placing ads and how much they are spending. They can also see what sort of ads are being placed. If - as we suspect - we are talking of No spending 2 million plus and Yes less than 100k on online advertising the magnitude of difference might have come out at some point, in particular if Repeal was narrowly defeated.

For google this may mean the ad revenue they will lose was no longer worth the global focus switching from FB to them as something corrupting in need of regulation.

In any case this is a major benefit for the Yes campaign which lacked the huge flow of far right evangelical cash that has been pumping into the No campaign. Online ads function as an auction and the highest bidder always wins an auction.

Google hasn't banned posts about the referendum, just paid ads. This means each campaign continues to be free to create content that will have organic reach as people interact with it. Together for Yes put out a video featuring actors Killian Murphy and Saoirse Ronan. The No campaigns will be able to respond using their celebrity endorsements from Crystal Swing and Dana.