Google is updating its policy in regards to how ads are displayed for abortion services in search results. The company will require organizations to provide concrete proof that they actually perform the procedure before running any ads on its platform. The changes will go into effect beginning in June.
The move comes in response to misleading advertising taken out by anti-abortion organizations such as the Obria Group that claimed to provide abortion services. The Obria Group would instead attempt to dissuade women from seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
Under Google’s new guidelines, ads related to abortion services will now clearly indicate whether the group “provides abortions” or “does not provide abortions,” Google said, adding that the disclosures will show on all search ad formats.
“This added transparency will help ensure that users have the necessary information to decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them,” Google said on its blog.
Earlier this month, The Guardian ran a pair of stories critical of Google and its ad practices surrounding anti-abortion services. The publication reported that nonprofits such as Obria were given $150,000 in free advertising on Google’s platform; Obria strongly opposes the practice, but advertised that it offers family planning services such as abortion. That prompted lawmakers such as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to call out Google for "intentional misinformation campaigns," according to The Guardian.
The company has historically walked a fine line between keeping politics out of its multi-billion dollar ad business, opting to provide an equal playing field to both sides of the political spectrum. Yet its practices regarding how ads addressing abortion have faced increased scrutiny for years, and have emerged once again after states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi passing strict anti-abortion laws.
Google has also been criticized for dragging its feet on the issue. In 2014, for example, Google said it was removing ads for “crisis pregnancy centers” after an analysis by NARAL, a pro-choice organization, found that 79 percent of ads on Google for abortion services were misleading and that such groups were instead focused on providing alternatives to the procedure.