This month, Google came under fire after a report revealed that it had given about $150,000 in free advertising tools to an anti-abortion organization. Google has a thorny history when it comes to providing these types of organizations with powerful platforms to reach and mislead women seeking abortion services, but the tech giant just updated its ad policy to help curb this deception.
Starting next month, advertisers in the U.S., UK, and Ireland running ads with abortion-related keywords will need to apply for certification and specifically state whether they do or do not provide abortions. When the organization is certified, their ads will have a disclosure that reads either “Provides abortions” or “Does not provide abortions,” with these disclosures rolling out on all Search ad formats, according to a Google post. Advertisers running abortion-related ads can submit their applications starting today, as Google recommends, since the policy will go into effect in June.
It’s unclear why the policy will only apply to the U.S., UK, and Ireland. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment but we’ll update this post when we receive a reply.
For individuals that turn to the most powerful search engine to find information about abortion services, this is a crucial policy update to help them weed out legitimate medical institutions that provide those services from crisis pregnancy centers that aim to dissuade women from having an abortion. And these crisis pregnancy centers have weaponized Google products for years through deceptive advertising practices on Google Maps and its Search engine.
By forcing crisis pregnancy centers to explicitly declare whether or not they provide abortions, and then labeling their ads in an obvious way, it helps to eliminate the risk of a woman with an unplanned pregnancy from being manipulated online, which can lead to a traumatizing and scientifically untruthful in-person experience.
Google’s policy change is pretty belated—activists urged Google to remove crisis pregnancy centers from its Search results a year ago—but it marks an acknowledgment that the tech giant’s tools and services can be exploited, and that those exploits have serious consequences both for users mental and physical health. And it is as simple as forcing manipulative organizations to simply, and clearly, state the facts.