A group of lawmakers are requesting that Google clamp down on misleading search results that allegedly steer people searching for abortion services to crisis pregnancy centers that oppose it.
The letter, which is led by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) draws on research by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate.
They asked that if Google would not take action to prevent the results from appearing, it would at least ad “user-friendly disclaimers” explaining if a resulting clinic does not provide abortions.
In states with trigger laws that would effectively prohibit abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, 11% of search results for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” actually pointed to “anti-abortion fake clinics,” according to the letter. The report also found that, in those states, 37% of search results on Google Maps were for “fake clinics,” as were 28% of Google ads displayed at the top of the results.
The lawmakers note that Google did provide a disclaimer on misleading ads for the so-called fake clinics in 2019, though they criticized them as being difficult for users to see.
“However, no such warning is present on non-sponsored search results on Google Search,” the lawmakers wrote. “The prevalence of these misleading ads marks what appears to be a concerning reversal from Google’s pledge in 2014 to take down ads from crisis pregnancy centers that engage in overt deception of women seeking out abortion information online.”
Nearly two dozen Democratic senators and congressmen, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), signed the letter, according to Reuters.
“We’re always looking at ways to improve our results to help people find what they’re looking for, or understand if what they’re looking for may not be available,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in response, according to the outlet.
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