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Google has taken steps to address controversies surrounding abortion-related advertisements on its platform—but the tech giant is still facing challenges.
In May, Google announced a new policy that requires any abortion-related services to first register with Google in order to be verified as either a center that “provides abortions” or “does not provide abortions.”
When users run searches for clinics, the Google ads that appear are supposed to show whether a clinic provides abortion or does not provide abortion. However, a Guardian report revealed that the disclaimer is applicable only to searches containing the word “abortion.”
When users run searches with different terms but still related to abortion or family planning, Google ads for these services don’t disclose the key information about whether clinics provide abortions, according to the Guardian.
For example, searches for “free pregnancy test” or “pregnancy symptoms” did not show the classifications for the same services. Google confirmed to the Guardian that its policy is designed only for searches containing the word “abortion.”
This remains a key concern amid recent months of heightened debates and, in some states, harsh restrictions on abortion. Anti-abortion centers often target women in need, vulnerable in the face of an unwanted pregnancy, which remains a growing concern for pro-choice activists, as the Guardian notes.
Google previously allowed many anti-abortion centers to falsely advertise abortion as a service, according to the Guardian, and anti-choice organizations were heavily opposed to the new policy.
“This additional transparency is meant to help users decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them,” read Google’s statement to the Guardian. “Our policies already prohibit misrepresentation in ads and if we find ads that violate our policies, we immediately remove them.”
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque