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Google and Yelp Disable Reviews on Some Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the Middle of Activist “Spam” Campaign

Google and Yelp Disable Reviews on Some Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the Middle of Activist “Spam” Campaign

Google and Yelp appear to have suspended the ability to post reviews of some crisis pregnancy centers listed on these platforms, which some activists say may prevent them from providing accurate information about the centers known for trying to persuade women seeking abortion to not to get them. . Google also appears to have suspended the ability to post reviews of certain abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.

The suspension of the opportunity to post reviews was first noticed by members of the progressive youth activist group Gen-Z for Change, which launched an initiative called SAFER – or Spam, Assist, Fund, Educate, and Register – on 5 July.

The initiative encouraged people to flood anti-abortion crisis maternity centers and anti-abortion tips with reviews and comments, by using one of several versions of pre-prepared text that explains that the business “was not an abortion clinic” in an attempt to provide transparency about what services the centers actually offer, according to the SAFER website. The SAFER page allowed users to run a script that would automatically leave countless reviews on Yelp Crisis Pregnancy Center pages.

Pregnancy crisis centers have sometimes used questionable methods to market themselves to young people who become pregnant.

Pregnancy centers often disguise themselves as places where a person can have an abortion, to force and pressure the person not to terminate the pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. On several platforms, searches for antenatal care or abortion services yield results that include crisis pregnancy centers without separating them from, among other things, medical facilities that offer abortion.

On Thursday, Sean Wiggs, a digital strategy officer for Gen-Z for Change, first noticed Yelp and Google had disabled the ability to leave reviews for many of these organizations.

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As of Thursday, it appeared that the button for leaving a review was removed for any crisis center for pregnancies marked as a “pregnancy center” on Google. It was not immediately clear what factors caused a center’s rating button to be removed. Some centers viewed by NBC News, which were not labeled “pregnancy care centers”, still had a review button. It’s not clear when Google removed the review buttons, but some “pregnancy centers” had reviews posted as recently as two weeks ago.

“It feels like Yelps and Google are taking sides for the crisis pregnancy center over those actually seeking abortion,” Wiggs said.

“It is more disbelieving that they will in advance get in the way of people leaving reviews. It’s not that the reviews are inaccurate … it’s just a list of the services they actually offer at these crisis maternity centers, Wiggs said.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Planned parenting sites on Google, some of which have abortions, had also had their buttons removed. Old reviews of the anti-abortion centers, some of which explained that the company does not offer abortions, are still visible. However, not all crisis centers on Google have existing reviews explaining that they do not provide abortions.

Last month, 20 Democratic congressmen and Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sent a letter to the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, urging him to fix Google’s accuracy for abortion providers. Shortly after the letter was sent, New York State Attorney Letitia James’ office sent a letter to Google, expressing concern that Google Maps was unable to differentiate between abortion providers and crisis maternity centers.

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“New Yorkers, and others traveling to the state, should trust that Google Maps will provide accurate information and refer them to real and safe care,” James said in a statement.

In 2018, Google said it would look into the issue, according to a press release from James’ office. In 2019, Google said it had begun using human analysts to decipher “what facilities offer abortion and those who work to disrupt a pregnant person’s decision.” James’ office stated that a recent test showed that the problem persists.

Google’s support page states that companies and organizations wishing to advertise for abortion seekers must be certified by Google and display disclosures in the ad as to whether or not they perform an abortion.

On Yelp, organizations labeled “Faith-Based Crisis Pregnancy Centers” and “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” have had their review sections temporarily disabled. When you tried to leave a review, a box appeared saying that “the business has recently received increased public attention in the news, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news instead of a first hand consumer experience. “

The statement goes on to say that the opportunity to post about the business is temporarily disabled, and that those who want to post about their experience should check back at a later date.

When a user sees the existing reviews, a similar alert is displayed warning the viewer that the business has received increased attention. However, users can still see old reviews, some of which explain that the crisis pregnancy center does not provide abortions.

Some of the clinics with disability reviews on Yelp do not have existing reviews explaining that the company does not provide abortions.

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A Yelp spokesman said the company “condemns any attempt to mislead people seeking abortion care” and said that when a clinic “does not offer abortion services, the business is recategorized as either” Crisis Pregnancy Centers “or” Faith-Based Crisis “. Pregnancy Centers. ‘”

“Since July 5, we have seen a large influx of reviews on crisis center business sites across the United States that do not reflect real consumer experiences, and instead are statements about ideological attitudes,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Yelp’s Content Guidelines require that all reviews be based on genuine, first-hand consumer experiences, even in situations where we may agree with other views expressed in these reviews.”

Yelp’s policies do not allow users to post reviews “that focus overwhelmingly on non-consumer issues, such as a company’s political ideology.”

Olivia Julianna, a political strategist for Gen-Z for Change and an abortion rights activist, said that the organization launched SAFER with the mission of ensuring that all people in the United States have access to safe abortions.

Before Google and Yelp shut down the ability to leave reviews on any of the Crisis Pregnancy Center pages, Gen-Z for Change had “submit[ed] over 25,000 honest reviews to over 2,000 crisis maternity centers across the country. ”

“Removing the opportunity to provide the public with such critical information is unsafe and erodes the aspect of transparency needed to decide where to seek care,” Julianna said.

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