TTP Report: Google Serves Anti-Abortion Clinic Ads that Violate its Policies
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2022
Contact: Michael Clauw, email@example.com, 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 is serving misleading ads for so-called crisis pregnancy centers to users searching for information about how to get an abortion. The ads identified by TTP suggest they can help women obtain an abortion but link to fake clinics that try to encourage women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. This appears to violate Google’s policy on misrepresentation, which prohibits ads that “deceive users” by “providing misleading information about products, services, or businesses—raising questions about Google’s vetting process for ads on its platform.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Even for the most trivial products and services, Google should not be allowing advertisers to misrepresent what they are offering to searchers. Abortion services are anything but trivial, and the misrepresentation in this case can result in life-altering confusion and a serious delay in patients receiving medical care.”
The ads identified by TTP suggest they can help women obtain an abortion, with messages like “Free Abortion Pill” and “First Trimester Abortion.” Yet, they link to crisis pregnancy centers—fake clinics that pose as abortion providers to lure in “abortion-determined” women. The centers do not offer abortions but instead try to encourage women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.
These ads use strikingly similar phrasing to ads from clinics that do perform abortions. Typical abortion clinic ads read, “Atlanta Women’s Health Center – Abortion Pill Available,” “Abortion Clinic in WA – First Term Abortion,” and “Where to get an abortion – Need an Abortion in Arizona?” Crisis pregnancy center ads often mimic that language and appear alongside ads for true abortion providers in Google searches, creating potential confusion for users.
Google has said that its systems “continuously monitor ads and content for policy compliance” through a “combination of people and technology,” and also boasts an interdisciplinary team that reviews “everything from the ad creative to the landing page.” TTP’s findings call this claim into question.
For example, an ad for Virginia-based organization Mosiac reads: “No insurance needed – Call now – Abortion in Virginia.” Although the headline suggests that the advertiser provides abortions, the advertiser’s landing page made clear the organization does not. Google—according to its own procedures—should have caught this contradiction and rejected the ad.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “In an effort to maximize the number of advertisers it can take money from, Google has chosen to stick by an ad review system that is putting people at serious risk of being manipulated in their pursuit of important medical care. If Google can’t find a way to profit from sensitive health topics safely, it shouldn’t be profiting from them at all.”
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.