Countries’ struggle over abortion information catches technology in the crossfire

As reproductive rights fluctuate across the United States, activists on both sides of the issue are using uncertainty to pressure tech companies to change the way abortion information is shared and classified.

The Big Picture: The lack of nationwide law means companies will likely have to interpret patchwork of competing state rules — as they already do with privacy and other technical issues.

  • Platforms now face the prospect of being told by a country to block information that another country asks them to distribute.

what are they saying: “We may be on the brink of a digital civil war, in which one group of countries has rules about online speech that conflict with the rules in another group of countries,” says Matt Perrault, director of the Center for Technology Policy at the University of the North. Carolina, who is also a consultant on technology policy issues and a former Meta employee.

driving the newsThe pressure on technical platforms to tighten controls on abortion information comes from both sides of the problem.

  • Pro-abortion activists and politicians want to name platforms more clearly Pregnancy crisis centers – which usually ask patients seeking abortion to look for alternatives – to distinguish then from actual abortion clinics.
  • A group of Democratic lawmakers Proposed legislation To eliminate what they say is misleading medical information used by crisis pregnancy centers to show up when people search for information about abortion. Meanwhile, a group of conservative prosecutors Send a letter to Google They demand not to limit the information of the pregnancy center in crises.

Abortion opponents pay of state laws that would criminalize not only assisting in facilitating abortion but also providing information about how or where to obtain an abortion.

  • a law Project In South Carolina, based on model legislation from the National Right to Life Commission, it would criminalize the provision of abortion information if the entity doing so knew that the information was “to be used, or reasonably likely to be used for abortion.”
  • technology platforms Already under fire About the ways in which abortion information is being restricted, particularly discussions about abortion drugs.

The Big Picture: With the country becoming increasingly divided and polarized over abortion, technology platforms have emerged as a major battleground, in some cases as pivotal as the courts and legislatures.

  • “We should be just as concerned about what’s happening with technology and abortion information as we are with what’s happening with laws,” Erin Mattson, co-founder and CEO of abortion rights group Reproaction, told Axios.
  • Abortion opponents have similarly focused on this issue, pushing states that ban abortion to adopt language similar to that proposed in South Carolina.

The first amendment narrows down The degree to which government can regulate speech. By contrast, tech platforms have ample room to highlight or remove content, and advocates on all sides are pushing them to use that discretion.

Here’s the state of play On the main platforms:

The GoogleAdvertisement: YouTube owned by Google stricter rules on miscarriage-related content in the last month.

  • The new rules target information coming from both sides. It bans videos that “promote or provide guidance” for unsafe or alternative abortion methods that are not backed by science or approved by medical professionals.

  • They also prohibit false claims about abortion, such as that it causes infertility or cancer.

dead: Critics say Facebook has sometimes overtaken In limiting posts on abortion drugs, in some cases temporarily banning hashtags that use the name of a drug that can cause abortion.

  • Facebook says it uses its standard policy on drugs, where drug discussion, affordability or availability is allowed, but drug sale, gift or transfer is not allowed.
  • The company sometimes blocks hashtags associated with a high level of content that breaks the rules, but Meta does He confessed “Cases of improper implementation” of its policies.
  • Even before the Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe, abortion rights advocates said Facebook was allowing medical misinformation to flourish while censoring accurate information, such as Representative Jerry Nadler the summary In a February letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

howling: Although Yelp’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, has been an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, the site has also taken action against “review bombing” of crisis pregnancy centers by abortion rights advocates.

  • The company says it will continue to enforce one of its core policies: that people can only personally review entities they have received services from.
  • At the same time, the company told Axios that it continues to work on ways to provide consumers with reliable information about reproductive health care providers that provide abortion services as well as crisis pregnancy centers that direct people to other options.

From the note: Perault largely anticipated the predicament of platforms in Piece co-authored by Slate In May, after the draft resolution was leaked.

  • “Platforms will get caught in the middle, trying to mediate a culture war with disastrous consequences for human well-being, while making decisions that satisfy almost no one and anger Democrats and Republicans alike,” he wrote.

deepen: Today’s abortion battles are also opening up New interfaces in the Internet. Fighting over personal information and privacy.

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