The advertisement that Google refused to accept

Internet giant Google has changed its policy and will allow Christian groups to advertise their views on the issue of abortion as the result of a court action in the United Kingdom.

The legal action was launched by the Christian Institute because Google Ireland Ltd., described as the “doorway to the Internet,” censored its simple ad reading: “UK abortion law – Key views and news on abortion law from the Christian Institute.”

Google had explained it refused the ad because of its old policy that disallowed advertising of sites that mixed “abortion and religion-related content.”

However, the Institute today announced a settlement that included a review of and a change to the Google policy.

“We are delighted to confirm that our legal proceedings against Google for blocking our abortion ad have been settled on amicable terms,” the Institute’s statement said. “As a result of the court action and other representations made to Google in recent months, Google has reviewed its AdWords policy to enable The Christian Institute and other religious associations to place ads on the subject of abortion in a factual and campaigning way.”

Google, when the problem arose, said: “We only allow ads that have factual information about abortion.”

But the Institute’s head of communications, Mike Judge, said that revealed a “warped” set of values.

“To insinuate that religious groups are not factual on the issue of abortion is a huge insult to religious people across the globe,” he said at the time. “This is not a debate about the rights and wrongs of abortion. It is about free speech. You can be pro-abortion and still recognize that Google is acting unfairly.”

The Institute said it was told the new Google policy will apply worldwide immediately.

“This is an important issue of free speech and religious liberty and we are pleased with Google’s constructive response to this matter,” the organization said.

Earlier, Judge said the censorship was appalling.

“To say that religious sites with material on abortion are ‘unacceptable content’ (while) advertising pornography is ridiculous,” he said.

His opinions were shared by former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe.

“It does seem to me to be the most appalling and blatant case of religious discrimination and also to be a very silly attempt to stifle due debate,” she said.

The details of the settlement, other than the policy was changed and the advertising now will be allowed, weren’t released. But the organization also posted a statement on the settlement on YouTube:

The Christian Institute brought the action in April, citing the United Kingdom’s Equality Act.

Eventually, Google responded.

“The issue of abortion is an emotive subject and Google does not take a particular side. Over the last few months we have received a number of representations about our abortion ads policy and we decided to conduct a review to make sure it was fair, up to date and consistent with local customs and practices,” the corporation said. “Following the review we have decided to amend our policy, creating a level playing field and enabling religious associations to place adds in a factual way.”

The Christian Institute had wanted to promote its online information about abortion just as Parliament was taking on discussion of the nation’s proposed Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, the first opportunity in 18 years for members of Parliament to vote on time limits for abortions.

But Google officials at that time shut down the request.

“Thank you for advertising with Google AdWords. In reviewing your AdWords Starter Edition account, we have found that your ad or keywords do not meet our guidelines. Please log into your account to see your disapproved ad, the reason for disapproval and editorial suggestions…,” the e-mail said.

Then it specified that company policy “does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain ‘abortion and religion-related content,’ … As noted in our advertising terms and conditions, we reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion when it comes to the advertising we accept on our site.”

The Christian Institute’s legal representation, the firm of Aughton Ainsworth, responded.

“It is unlawful for you to discriminate against the Christian Institute in a manner which infringes section 46 of the Equality Act 2006,” an advisory letter from the firm said.

“In relation to your provision to the public or a section of the public of ‘facilities or services’ to advertise, you are treating the Christian Institute less favorably, on the express grounds of their religion or belief, than others where there is no material difference in the relevant circumstances,” the law firm warned.

“This is evidenced by the fact that you permit groups, such as ‘Reality Check,’ who are promoting pro abortion beliefs, to advertise on the abortion link. … In fact the discrimination seems to be directly targeted at the Christian Institute. This is because the ‘Google policy’ to which you refer does not appear in your written ‘AdWords Advertising Policies’ at all.

“You permit abortion clinics to advertise their services and ‘political advertising’ … You also permit organizations to advertise ‘anti-religious T-shirts’ as a link to the Google search word ‘secular,'” the firm said.

The Christian Institute was seeking to pay Google so that when the word “abortion” was typed, its link would appear on the side of the screen.


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