Google will now require organizations running ads about abortion to certify whether they actually offer abortions. Starting next month, those certifications will appear inside the ads, letting viewers know whether the organization provides abortions or does not provide abortions, to prevent viewers from being misled. The disclosures will only be required in the US, UK, and Ireland.
The change comes following last week’s report in the Guardian saying that Google has provided grants to a group of pregnancy clinics that indicated they offered abortions, but were actually part of an anti-abortion group. Anti-abortion groups have commonly tried to mislead pregnant women by pretending to offer abortions or abortion resources, while in reality steering them away from the information and services they’re seeking.
Pregnancy centers have had their ads removed from Google in the past over misleading ads, but that’s been on a case-by-case basis. The issue has also extended to results on Google Maps.
The new policy will, in theory, prevent this kind of deception in the first place when it comes to advertisements on Google search. It’s reliant on Google properly vetting these disclosures, though, and it’s not clear how thorough that process will be. Google just says that an advertiser’s organization “will be reviewed” to confirm that their declaration is accurate. Organizations have to provide abortions at their own facilities in order to qualify.
The new policies won’t do anything to prevent search and Maps results from being gamed by anti-abortion organizations. But advertisements are typically the first few results on any given search result, so this change could go a ways toward directing people to the information they’re looking for. We’ve reached out to Google for more details.
Google’s new policy is also going into effect right as several US states are enacting almost complete abortion bans and making providing the services illegal.
Beginning to classify organizations as providing or not providing abortion is particularly interesting in that light, as the ads could help direct women to resources they need, but it could also set Google up to restrict ads if one of these states took further action. Google already prohibits abortion advertisements in dozens of countries because of local laws, and it even restricts how they appear within certain countries.