- In 2018, it was found that Google Maps delivered inaccurate results for people searching for abortion clinics in certain areas, often leading them to centers that don’t offer abortions, and even to anti-abortion organizations, according to a February Gizmodo report.
- A new Vice report suggests that Google Maps still struggles with the differentiation, although it reports that Google Maps has gotten better since 2018.
- The problem stems from how businesses categorize themselves in Google listings. Anti-abortion clinics or organizations that deter abortions often use the same keywords as abortion clinics or places that help with carrying out abortions.
- The “abortion clinic” category in Google Maps is intended to be exclusively for clinics that offer the procedure, but some organizations that don’t offer it have slipped through the cracks.
- Google says it deploys analysts to ensure listings are accurate, and that it’s continually working to make sure search results are relevant to what a person is searching for.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In areas where there are no abortion clinics, Google Maps isn’t leading people who search for abortion clinics to the nearest center that performs the procedure.
Instead, Google Maps often directs people to centers that don’t offer abortions, and some of the results lead to anti-abortion political groups, according to a new Vice report.
The problem appears to stem from how businesses categorize themselves during the listing process on Google Maps, and how Google differentiates a center that does offer abortions against a center that doesn’t offer abortions, or an anti-abortion organization.
One result supposedly directed people seeking abortion clinics to a monument to “unborn” children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the report found.
In the erroneous search results on Google Maps, centers and organizations that don’t offer or support abortions are often labeled as “pregnancy care centers,” “women’s health centers,” or “women’s health clinics,” Vice found in its research. Those are the same categories that an abortion clinic or pro-choice organization might use.
Abortion clinics have exclusive rights to the “abortion clinic” category in Google Maps listings, and Google Maps verifies businesses that categorize themselves as “abortion clinic.” But Vice said that Google Maps has occasionally slipped in the verification process.
A Google spokesperson provided Business Insider the following statement:
“We work hard to surface business results that are relevant, accurate, and help users find what they’re looking for. We have policies in place against businesses that misrepresent themselves on Maps and when we become aware we respond to as quickly as possible. We also empower our users to report listings for correction or removal if they believe a business is misrepresenting itself or its services.”
Google told Vice that it deploys analysts to ensure that the categories used by businesses in their listings are accurate.
Google was first found to deliver these inaccurate results in a February 2018 Gizmodo report, and Vice notes that Google has “gotten better at differentiating abortion clinics” since then.