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Democrats call on Google to look into search results, ads tied to misleading clinics

FILE – The logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the entrance hall of Google France in Paris, on Nov. 18, 2019. Google said Wednesday, May11, 2022, that it has struck licensing deals with 300 European publishers, in its latest effort to comply with a recently introduced EU copyright law. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

A group of Democratic senators and representatives called on Google to look into search results and ads tied to “anti-abortion ‘fake clinics’” amid a recent report that showed their prevalence in 13 states with so-called “trigger laws” that would almost immediately ban or severely restrict abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Thirteen senators and eight representatives signed a letter to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google parent company Alphabet Inc., dated Friday in which they highlighted a report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) that showed that in 13 states with trigger laws, searches for “abortion pill” or “abortion clinic near me” showed clinics that did not provide those services 11 percent of the time.

Those clinics, which CCDH noted are referred to as “pregnancy resource centers” or “crisis pregnancy centers,” generally seek to dissuade people from having abortions and instead urge them to choose adoption or motherhood.

“This problem is even more pronounced on Google Maps, where CCDH found that 37% of search results were for anti-abortion fake clinics. Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers in search results for users that are searching for an ‘abortion clinic’ or ‘abortion pill.’ If Google must continue showing these misleading results in search results and Google Maps, the results should, at the very least, be appropriately labeled,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers acknowledged that Google did label ads that came from such clinics, but said these disclaimers could still be glanced over easily and were not applied at all on Google Search for non-sponsored search results.

The lawmakers asked Pichai about what steps the tech giant would be taking to reduce the percentage of search results related to the clinics and if it would start clearly labeling them when they appeared.

The letter was led by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.). Other senators who signed the letter included: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).

Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) also signed onto the letter. 

The letter comes as the Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a ruling on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. A leaked draft opinion published last month indicated the high court will overturn the federal level abortion protections established by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. 

The Hill has reached out to Google for comment.

Tags Alphabet Inc. Elissa Slotkin Google Sundar Pichai Sundar Pichai

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