2020 Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI.) is taking Google to court over election interference following the disappearance of campaign ads immediately after the first Democratic debate in June.
The lawsuit was filed in a Los Angeles federal court on Thursday and accuses Google of inappropriately encroaching on Gabbard’s free speech and interfering in the 2020 presidential campaign by suspending her campaign’s advertising account after the Hawaii congresswoman’s performance at the Miami debate.
“For hours, Tulsi’s campaign advertising account remained offline while Americans everywhere were searching for information about her,” Gabbard’s campaign claimed in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “During this time, Google obfuscated and dissembled with a series of inconsistent and incoherent reasons for its actions. In the end, Google never explained to us why Tulsi’s account was suspended.”
Google trends did indeed show the relatively unknown Gabbard heading into the event to become the most-searched candidate on the first night of the Democratic debates last month.
The Gabbard campaign filed an injunction to keep the company from any further interruptions into the 2020 presidential election and claimed $50 million in damages.
The lawsuit also alleges that the campaign’s emails were landing in spam folders on Google’s email service, Gmail, at a “disproportionately high rate,” compared to the other candidates.
A Google spokesperson said the company has automated systems that flag unusual activity that monitor all advertiser accounts to prevent fraud.
“In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter,” a spokesperson for the company told The Federalist. “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.”
Gabbard’s lawsuit alleging a violation of free speech echoes what conservatives have been arguing is a major threat from giant tech companies for years.
“Google’s discriminatory actions against my campaign are reflective of how dangerous their complete dominance over internet search is,” Gabbard said in a statement to the New York 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, who is considered a long-shot candidate in the Democratic primary, has been an advocate for breaking up big tech, similar to 2020 rival U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who pledged earlier this month to appoint an attorney general to lead the Department of Justice who would work to break up large tech corporations.
Breaking up tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon has received bi-partisan support as these companies undergo heightened scrutiny worldwide over the handling of user data and free speech concerns.
Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation into Facebook a week after the agency slapped the social media giant with a $5 billion fine over its handling of personal data that violated user privacy laws, the largest fine that a federal agency has ever handed down to a tech company.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announced legislation aimed at breaking up tech giants that centers-in on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed by Congress in 1996 that provides protections for these large entities.
Hawley’s legislation, titled “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” eliminates protections given to the tech companies under the act unless corporations allow external audits of their algorithms to prove political neutrality.