TRI built a database of online political ads targeting Irish Facebook users during the Eighth Amendment Referendum campaign in Ireland in 2018. We published these ads in the database below, so they were open to scrutiny by journalists, fact checkers and anyone wishing to understand how Facebook ads were used during the Referendum campaign.  

The database was crowdsourced with the help of voters across Ireland, who decided to contribute using the WhoTargetsMe plugin. 

You can find a downloadable version of the database here.

TRI had considerable success in meeting its initial goals. The Irish Government has added the issues of threats from social media ads to the national risk register, and has committed to reform in a cross-departmental report on election integrity. Facebook and Google took some steps to acknowledging their role, taking unprecedented steps of withdrawing or limiting their services in Ireland due to the lack of regulation of their product.

But longer term reform is going to require investment to develop creative solutions, and a more established initiative with the capacity to provide ongoing evidence and support to make those solution the reality in Ireland.

A few things to note:

  • Sponsored posts by news organisations containing the themes of the referendum are included in the database in a separate tab, though these may be for commercial purposes. See explanation.
  • The “interest” column is part of the information that was available to the person seeing the ad explaining why they were shown this ad. Specifically, if they were show ads “because you were interested in X”. Because not all ads are targeted by interest, and because Facebook doesn’t share all of this information, this field is not comprehensive.
  • This data was collected by the WhoTargetsMe plugin, and data was filtered to find all ads marked as “IE” for Ireland, and using a list of filter terms to identify ads related to the referendum on the 8th amendment. See
  • The list of users from whom the data has been gathered is approximately 570.