Alleging Censorship and Condemning Outsized Power, Tulsi Gabbard Sues Google for 'Threat to Free Speech, Fair Elections, and Democracy'

September 12, 2020 0 By HearthstoneYarns

Arguing Google’s singular dominance over internet searches presents a danger to democracy, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a lawsuit Thursday in California against the tech giant over its alleged censorship of her campaign.

Gabbard says that for about six hours after the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, Google suspended her campaign’s ad account without warning, making it impossible for the campaign to advertise during a spike in internet searches related to the Hawaii Democrat.

Google says the campaign’s account was automatically suspended due to a billing discrepancy, but Gabbard maintains that the company was intentionally blocking her access to voters through search engine ads. Gabbard has been outspoken about her goal to break up large tech companies, her support for net neutrality, and what she views as Silicon Valley’s threats to democracy.

“Google may blame this on automated systems, but the reality is that there is no transparency whatsoever, which makes it difficult to determine the truth.” 
—Cullen Tiernan, campaign spokesperson

“Google’s discriminatory actions against my campaign are reflective of how dangerous their complete dominance over internet search is, and how the increasing dominance of big tech companies over our public discourse threatens our core American values,” Gabbard said in a statement. “This is a threat to free speech, fair elections, and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans.”

Searches related to Gabbard rose during and after the debate, but the campaign’s account was blocked from 9:30pm that evening until 3:30am, leaving it unable to buy ads that would show up in search results.

Gabbard “had no ability to really speak to the people who wanted to hear from her” while many viewers of the debate were taking an interest in her, her attorney, Brian Dunne, told Politico.

Other candidates have strongly supported net neutrality and called for big tech companies to be broken up as well, but the campaign argued the Google saw Gabbard as a rising threat when her traffic spiked.