Lawmakers urge Google to remove misleading results from searches for abortion clinics

By Clare Duffy and Brian Fung, CNN Business

Congressional Democrats urge Google to block searches for abortion clinics from returning results and ads that direct users to facilities that oppose the procedure, pointing to misleading search results about where to get a Abortion could put women’s health at risk.

Senator Mark Warner and Representative Elissa Slotkin said that if Google does not block abortion clinics from appearing in Google and Maps search results for abortion services, the company should label search results to make clear whether a clinic in its results actually provides abortions, according to a letter sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Friday that was signed by more than 20 lawmakers.

“Referring women to bogus clinics that spread false information and do not provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results,” the letter states.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter comes amid heightened attention to the digital risks that people seeking abortion care may face, especially in states where laws limit access to the procedure. The problem is expected to get worse if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade — the nearly 50-year-old opinion that argues there is a federal and constitutional right to abortion — a decision she appears poised to make, according to a draft notice disclosed published by Politico last month.

Online security experts have also expressed concern that a woman’s personal data could be used to enforce the criminalization of abortion laws in states with such laws. They also raised concerns about misinformation about abortions and birth control and misleading advertisements “crisis pregnancy centers” that target pregnant women but oppose abortion.

The authors of Friday’s letter cited research from the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate showing that some Google searches in states with so-called “trigger laws”, or laws that would block abortion if Roe v. Wade, direct users to anti-abortion clinics. In those states, 11% of Google search results for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” list clinics that do not offer abortions or attempt to discourage abortions, according to the letter. The research also showed that anti-abortion clinics accounted for 37% of Google Maps results for abortion services in those states, the lawmakers wrote.

In Google searches conducted by CNN Business on Friday for “abortion clinics” near Nashville, Tennessee, and Boise, Idaho — two states that have passed trigger laws — some of the results included anti-abortion clinics on the first page. Google Maps search results in Boise, Idaho show a facility that says it “does not perform” abortions as a second result and another “pregnancy care center” that states on its site Web that it is not a medical institution as the fifth result. Even a Google Maps search for “abortion clinics” in Brooklyn, New York, which has more lenient statewide laws, shows a clinic devoted to abortion alternatives as the fourth result.

“What additional steps will Google take to ensure users receive accurate information when they search for healthcare services like abortion on Google Search and Google Maps when users search for ‘abortion clinic’ “, “abortion pill” or similar terms,” ​​the lawmakers said. written in their letter.

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