Google will now clearly label facilities in the United States that offer abortions in search results and in Google Maps, seeking to eliminate confusion between medical clinics and so-called crisis pregnancy centers.
If the Alphabet Inc.-owned search giant has confirmation that a place offers medical services to terminate a pregnancy, it will say so clearly, with a label such as “provides abortions.” For search results that may be relevant but for which Google doesn’t have confirmation, it will say, “May not provide abortion,” according to a company spokesperson.
The adjustment follows a Bloomberg News investigation that found Google Maps directed people looking for abortion clinics to crisis pregnancy centers about a quarter of the time. These centers, whose mission is to encourage women to carry out their unwanted pregnancies, have dominated the results in several states where abortion is restricted or illegal.
“When people turn to Google to find local information, our goal is to help them easily explore the range of locations available so they can determine which ones are most useful to them,” a Google representative said in a statement. “For a number of categories where we’ve received confirmation that locations are offering specific services, we’ve been working for several months on more useful ways to display those results.” The change was reported earlier by TechCrunch.
Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 12 states have criminalized abortion and six have imposed procedural delays. On Thursday, new bans went into effect in Idaho and Tennessee, and in Texas abortion is now a felony and punishable by life in prison. CPCs target women seeking abortions and, once at their facilities, can log their data, which could become useful to prosecutors if women end up seeking abortions in one of these states.
So far, Google has failed to eliminate inaccurate results in Maps, cited as a problem by the media since at least 2018, when media asked the company to explain why searches were increasing CPCs. Google Maps is the dominant navigation service in the United States, with more than 118.4 million monthly users in the country and a 56% market share among mobile users, according to a recent report by Insider Intelligence. Bloomberg discovered that people seeking abortions were among the users who were mistakenly directed to CPCs.
Also this week, Yelp made a policy change to put disclaimers on CPCs, flagging centers as places that “provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals on site.” . The rule will apply to both religious and secular CPCs in the United States and Canada.
—With help from Davey Alba.
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