Advertisers planning to run ads on Google referring to abortion services in the United States, Britain and Ireland must first get clearance from the search giant, the company said in an online post.
After outrage over recent reports of misleading abortion-related ads, Google said it would require advertisers dealing with the topic to be certified as abortion providers or non-providers. Starting in June, abortion ads will include disclosures that identify whether or not the advertiser provides abortions. Companies and organizations can apply for certification starting now.
Google said last week in the online statement that “this added transparency will help ensure that users have the necessary information to decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them.”
The post came about after an organization that opposes abortion had apparently presented itself as a facility that provided abortions in ads that appeared on the site.
For years, Google has faced complaints that its platform enables so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which oppose abortion, to masquerade as abortion providers in an effort to dissuade women from seeking the procedure. The new certification process is meant to make plain exactly what services an advertiser provides.
“Depending on how you’re certified,” the company said in the post, “Google will automatically generate one of the following in-ad disclosures for your abortion product or service ads: ‘Provides abortions’ or ‘Does not provide abortions.’ The disclosures will show on all Search ad formats and help ensure that these ads transparently provide basic information users need to decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them.”
Google changed the policy after The Guardian reported that the tech company gave $150,000 in free ads to Obria Group. The ads suggested that Obria, which does not perform abortions and tries to persuade women not to end their pregnancies, offered abortion services.
“The idea that we’re moving toward verification around advertising shouldn’t be controversial in any way,” said Joan Donovan, an expert on misinformation who heads the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. “We should require businesses that are purchasing advertising to be who they say they are and be able to provide the services they say they do — we shouldn’t have to wait for it to be a really hot-button issue at the time.”
In 2014, the abortion rights group Naral Pro-Choice America said that it successfully pressured Google to take down deceptive advertisements from crisis pregnancy centers. Last year, ahead of a referendum on abortion in Ireland, Google suspended all ads related to the vote.
Google does not allow ads related to abortion to appear on its site in more than 70 countries.
Last week, Alabama lawmakers approved a near-total abortion ban in the state. Ahead of the 2020 election, Republican politicians and conservative groups are outspending Democrats and liberal groups on digital advertisements about abortion.
Many women looking for information on ending a pregnancy rely on Google. Over the course of a month in 2017, more than 200,000 Google searches sought information on self-induced abortion, according to a study from the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Similar searches surged nearly 500 percent between 2011 and 2015, according to data cited by researchers.