Tulsi Gabbard sues Google over violations of ‘free speech’
WASHINGTON – On Thursday, member of Congress and Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard launched a lawsuit against Google claiming “serious and continuing violations of Tulsi’s right to free speech” because of Google’s suspension of the Gabbard campaign’s advertising account during the first Democratic presidential debate.
The campaign asks for an immediate court injunction to stop further meddling from Google and payment of financial damages.
According to the lawsuit, filed by lawyers representing Gabbard’s campaign Tulsi Now Inc., Google suspended the Gabbard campaign’s advertising account for several hours during the first Democratic debate, when Gabbard was briefly the most-searched candidate on Google.
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“On June 28, 2019, millions of Americans asked Google about Tulsi Gabbard,” the lawsuit says. “Tulsi sought to answer them. But Google silenced her.”
In response, Google says “automated systems that flag unusual activity on all advertiser accounts — including large spending changes” were to blame for the suspension of Gabbard’s account. Google says their automated systems aim to “prevent fraud and protect our customers.”
“In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter,” said Google spokeswoman Riva Sciuto. “We are proud to offer ad products that help campaigns connect directly with voters, and we do so without bias toward any party or political ideology.”
The New York Times first reported the lawsuit. Warning of the “dominance of big tech companies,” Gabbard told the Times, “This is a threat to free speech, fair elections and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans.”
Gabbard’s campaign website took a more aggressive tone.
“Tulsi Takes Google to Court Over Election Interference,” said a banner at the top of Gabbard’s campaign website, mirroring language about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Republicans have long attacked tech giants like Google for what they see as an ideological bias. Last month, President Donald Trump held a “Social Media Summit” at the White House, where he hosted prominent conservative detractors of tech companies.
Ahead of the summit, Trump railed on Twitter against the “tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression” of the tech companies and said they would not be able to do so for much longer.
“if Google can do this to Tulsi, a combat veteran and four term Congresswoman who is running for the nation’s highest office, Google can do this to any candidate, from any party, running for any office in the United States,” says a statement on Gabbard’s website.