Democratic lawmakers demand Google clamp down on abortion search results
Democratic lawmakers are imploring Google to rejig its search results for abortion clinics to siphon out "misleading" links steering people toward anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.
Leaning on a recent study that found 11% of Google results for "abortion clinic near me" or "abortion pill" directed users toward crisis pregnancy centers, the legislators also pressed the Big Tech company for answers about what steps it was taking to address the situation.
"In the wake of the leaked Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, we find these reports especially concerning and would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter," the lawmakers, led by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), declared in a letter to Google.
"Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers in search results for users that are searching for an 'abortion clinic' or 'abortion pill,'" they continued.
The research was conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in the 13 states with trigger laws on the books that will ban abortion should the Supreme Court overturn the landmark precedents guaranteeing a right to an abortion established in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
In addition to the Google search results, the research also concluded that 37% of searches on Google Maps yielded "fake clinics," as did 28% of Google ads, in those 13 states. Although some of the ads were coupled with a disclaimer, the lawmakers emphasized it could be difficult for users to discern.
NEW: @RepSlotkin and I are leading a group of lawmakers to push on the Google CEO to crack down on manipulative search results that lead to scammy “crisis pregnancy centers.” It’s time for them to limit or label results and ads that lead to fake abortion clinics. pic.twitter.com/LlkTueI2QP — Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) June 17, 2022
"Google has provided a disclaimer — albeit one that appears in small font and is easily missed — for ads from anti-abortion fake clinics. However, no such warning is present on non-sponsored search results on Google Search," the lawmakers said. "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.
Pichai is slated to head to Capitol Hill next week as Congress mulls antitrust legislation, the New York Post reported.
A leaked draft Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization showed the court is poised to nix the Roe and Casey precedents and led to widespread speculation that the high court will relegate abortion policy back to the states when it releases its ruling on the matter.