The lawsuit arose over Google's plan to scan published books and make them searchable online through Google Book Search. A Google press release has this to say about the program,
Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Google Book Search was launched in 2004, and today enables the full text searching of more than a million books online. More than 20,000 publishers and 28 libraries around the world currently work with Google to market their books through the service. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit www.google.com and books.google.com.
The plaintiffs allege that Google is violating copyright laws.
Google's consistent response to criticism of its Book Search program has been to laud the open flow of information that will result from making the world's libraries accessible online. Indeed, Google's stated purpose as a company is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
So imagine my surprise when I read an article from AWID today reporting that Google is restricting ads for abortion services in 15 countries. The restrictions come from an update to Google's AdWords policy from 2008. The policy states that Google will no longer accept ads for abortion services in the listed countries. If you aren't sure what AdWords is, go to Google and type in a search. The links that show up along the right hand side bar and just above your search results are paid advertisements and they can be helpful if you're looking for a business or a service in your area.
There's been plenty of controversy over Google's AdWords program, or Google's restriction of certain ads. In 2008, Google restricted ads that would name the companies who have donated to politicians. So, this controversy isn't a new one. Under the AdWords contract terms, Google can refuse to run any ad it likes. I can't quibble with that. But, considering the great power that The Google can wield with its search engine, I'm horrified that they're using that power to restrict, rather than expand, women's access to reproductive care information.
I suspect that Google began restricting these ads to appease some cultures and make it easier for Google to operate in certain countries. Google was probably trying to avoid controversy. But by restricting reproductive health care service ads, Google may as well be making a moral judgment for women in those 15 countries. If Google is supposed to be dedicated to making information more accessible, then doesn't its restriction of abortion service ads directly contradict its purpose?
I think it does. Google, shame on you.