TTP Report: Google Helps ‘Fake Abortion Clinics’ Target Low-Income Women
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 7, 2023
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report showing how Google helped so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) target ads at low-income women in two major U.S. cities. These centers—which critics have dubbed “fake abortion clinics”—have long been accused of focusing their advertising at lower-income women and women of color in urban areas. TTP’s new research reveals how Google provides tools for CPCs to execute this strategy.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “For years, Google has provided anti-abortion centers with a large audience for their deceptive tactics. With these new findings, we now have even more information about how Google provides additional help in efficiently targeting a vulnerable subset of that audience.”
For this experiment, TTP created test accounts in Phoenix, Atlanta, and Miami for women in each of three income levels as defined by Google: Average or lower income, moderately high income, and high income. TTP then did 15 abortion-related Google searches while logged into each account and recorded the percentage of ads from CPCs.
Our investigation found that Google was more likely to show crisis pregnancy center ads to lower-income women in two of the three cities. For Phoenix-area searches, 56% of the ads served to TTP’s “average or lower income” account came from CPCs—compared to just 7% for the “high income” account. A similar pattern emerged with the test account representing a lower- or average-income woman in Atlanta, which got a higher rate of CPC ads (42%) than women at the other income levels in that city.
TTP’s investigation produced other insights into how Google serves crisis pregnancy center ads. For example, Google frequently served the CPC ads higher up in the search results for lower-income women than it did for women of other income levels. In several search queries in TTP’s experiment, the only ads Google served to lower-income users were for crisis pregnancy centers.
Today’s report follows an earlier TTP investigation which found that Google frequently served crisis pregnancy center ads that falsely suggest they offer abortions, violating the platform’s policy against advertising that misleads users. Today’s report contains even more examples of deceptive and violative ads.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Google’s situation with anti-abortion clinic ads is a mess. Some of these “clinics” are using Google search ads in a way that clearly violates Google’s policies against misrepresentation; in other cases, Google itself is failing to label these ads properly. While lower-income women may be the primary targets for fake clinics, the fact is that anyone who uses Google search for abortion information may be subject to deception.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.