Google has made more than $10 million over the past two years by enabling misleading ads for “fake” abortion clinics that aim to deter women from having the procedure, according to an estimate in a report released by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
The estimated value is microscopic compared to the more than $200 billion Google generates annually from ad sales. But the report’s data indicates the broad reach that pro-life groups can have by placing these ads in Google results for common phrases searched by women seeking abortion.
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Using Semrush, an analytics tool, CCDH researchers identified “188 fake clinic websites” that placed ads on Google between March 2021 and February of this year. The CCDH estimates that advertisements for fake clinics were clicked by users 13 million times during that period.
Some searching for “abortion clinics near me” on Google instead found results directing them to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that may try to talk women seeking abortions out of treatment and offer reversal techniques. of unproven abortion pills, according to the report.
Other Google searches populated by ads for crisis clinics included “abortion pill,” “abortion clinic” and “planned parenthood,” the report said, with clinics in states where abortion is legal spending twice as much as those in states with bans.
After the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, Google faced calls from Congressional Democrats to do more to stop searches for abortion clinics returning results for misleading ads — as well as calls from Republican lawmakers to do the opposite. The dueling pressure from lawmakers has highlighted how central Google can be to women seeking information about the procedure.
In a statement on Thursday, Google said its approach to abortion ads complies with local laws and that any advertiser targeting certain abortion-related keywords or phrases must complete a certification to confirm whether or not they provide abortion services. .
“We require that any organization that wants to advertise to people seeking information about abortion services be certified and clearly disclose whether or not they offer abortions,” a Google spokesperson said. “We don’t allow ads that promote abortion reversal treatments, and we also prohibit advertisers from misleading people about the services they offer.”
“We remove or block ads that violate these policies,” the company added.
Google said it doesn’t allow advertisements for abortion-reversal pills because the treatment isn’t FDA-approved. In response to Thursday’s CCDH report, the company said it has taken “enforcement measures” on content that violates this policy.
Google has continued to face scrutiny in recent months for the measures it takes to protect the location data of abortion seekers.
Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to Google in May with questions about how it deletes users’ location history when they visit sensitive locations like abortion clinics. The letter came after tests by The Washington Post and other privacy advocates appeared to show that Google was not quickly or consistently deleting users’ recorded visits to fertility centers at Planned Parenthood clinics.
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