Big Tech’s Responsibility to Abortion-Seekers

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

In late August, the crowd-sourced business review website Yelp announced that they are adding a new feature to listings of anti-abortion fake clinics. Whereas most businesses show a standard company profile when a user clicks on them, fake clinic profiles will now contain a “prominent consumer notice” pop-up on the page, clarifying for users that these centers provide “limited medical services” and “may not have licensed medical professionals onsite” [1] 

This is a welcome change of pace from the recent news of how most of Big Tech has responded to the fall of Roe: suppressing accurate and affirming abortion content, reinstating anti-abortion disinformation after it’s been removed by fact-checkers, and allowing anti-abortion fake clinics to list themselves among real abortion providers in search results. [2] 

Yelp has been on the right side of abortion access for a while: in 2019, they introduced a feature that separated fake clinics and real abortion care providers into different categories on their platform. Noticing the problem, creating solutions, and enhancing and iterating on those solutions when consumer need increases is exactly what users should expect from huge online platforms, and for that, Yelp is living up to their stated values against restricting abortion access. 

On the heels of Yelp’s announcement, Google responded to a letter from multiple Congressional representatives affirming that they would clearly list whether a business provided abortions or not in their reviews platform. [3] Unfortunately, they made this promise in 2019 as well, so here’s hoping this is a good-faith effort and not lip service under increasing public pressure. [4] 

Because the thing is: Google users can’t wait. As recently as mid-June, one in ten search results in the most abortion-restricted states in the country direct people to anti-abortion fake clinics, according the Center for Countering Digital Hate. Additionally, thirty-seven percent of Google Maps results listing abortion services direct people to fake clinics, and they comprise nearly twenty-eight percent of the top ads in search results, according to the same report. [5] 

It should be the bare minimum to only allow accurate health care information to proliferate on a major online platform. Unfortunately, it’s not the norm, so it’s refreshing to see this resource that so many use daily fight back against anti-abortion bad faith medicine in their own way. While anti-abortion fake clinics ramp up advertising online and position themselves as a solution to the cruelties of the post-Roe world that their movement inflicted on us, we have to find innovative ways to get the right information in the hands of everyone who needs it. This is an excellent start. 


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