Tulsi Gabbard, a member of Congress and Democratic presidential candidate, 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.
Gabbard’s campaign is asking for an immediate court injunction to stop further meddling from Google and payment of financial damages.
According to the lawsuit 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.
“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 said “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 was more aggressive in the way it communicated.
“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.
“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.