Home Mark Warner, again, pushing Google to police misleading ads by anti-abortion clinics

Mark Warner, again, pushing Google to police misleading ads by anti-abortion clinics

Chris Graham
(© Aleksei – stock.adobe.com)

Google regularly fails to slap disclaimers on misleading ads by anti-abortion clinics, and Sen. Mark Warner is pushing back at the search giant.

Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) wrote today to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, to nudge him into having his tech people tweak the algorithm to curb the deceptive ads.

“We are encouraged by and appreciative of the recent steps Google has taken to protect those searching for abortion services from being mistakenly directed to clinics that do not offer comprehensive reproductive health services. However, we ask you to address issues with misrepresentation in advertising on Google’s site and take a more expansive, proactive approach to addressing violations of Google’s stated policy,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

An investigation by Bloomberg News and the Center for Countering Digital Hate showed that, depending on the search term used, Google does not consistently apply disclaimer labels to ads by anti-abortion clinics.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate recently conducted searches that returned 132 misleading ads for such clinics that lacked disclaimers. The researchers found that queries for terms such as “Plan C pills,” “pregnancy help” and “Planned Parenthood” often returned results with ads that are not labeled accurately.

The Transparency Project found that some ads from “crisis pregnancy centers,” even when they were properly labeled, included deliberately deceptive verbiage aimed at tricking users into believing that they offer abortion services.

For example, ads for “crisis pregnancy centers” were found to contain language such as “Free Abortion Pill” and “First Trimester Abortion.”

“Such deceptive advertising likely reduces the effectiveness of labels and may lead to detrimental health outcomes for users who receive delayed treatment,” the lawmakers wrote.

Warner and Slotkin have been on Google’s case on this issue for a while now. The two previously urged Google to take action to prevent misleading search results for anti-abortion clinics, a push that ultimately led Google to clearly label facilities that provide abortions and prevent users from being misled by fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].