Abstract: The role of social media at electoral events is much speculated upon. Wide-ranging effects, and often critical evaluations, are attributed to commentary, discussions, and advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and many other platforms. But the specific effects of these social media during campaigns, especially referendum campaigns, remain under-studied. This thematic issue is a very valuable contribution for precisely this reason. Using the 2018 abortion referendum in Ireland as an illustrative case, this commentary argues for greater research on social media at referendum campaigns, more critical evaluation of the claims and counterclaims about social media effects, often aired widely without substantive evidence, and, finally, for robust, coordinated cross-national regulation of all digital platforms in line with global democratic norms.
Keywords: abortion; campaign regulation; referendum; referendum campaign; social media