Tulsi Now Inc., the campaign committee for Tulsi Gabbard, filed a lawsuit this week accusing Google of infringing her free speech. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate took the online giant to task over the suspension of a campaign advertising account for a total of six hours following the first presidential debate.
“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 provided to TechCrunch. “This is a threat to free speech, fair elections and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans.”
According to Google, the congresswoman’s account was flagged for “unusual activity,” when “large spending changes” triggered an automatic fraud prevention system. The campaign was suspend for around six hours overnight between June 27 and 28 — a relatively short amount of time, but a key one, in the wake of two large debates hosting the massive Democratic field.
Gabbard’s campaign chalks up the bump in spending to a large increase in searches following the national appearance. “To this day, Google has not provided a straight answer — let alone a credible one — as to why Tulsi’s political speech was silenced when millions of people wanted to hear from her,” the campaign writes in the suit.
As a private company, Google is not capable of violating the free speech enabled by the first amendment. But Gabbard joins a growing number of politicians taking on tech companies over similar issues. Thus far, however, the complaints have largely come from Republican circles calling out sites like Twitter and Facebook for perceived liberal biases.
The campaign, meanwhile, has turned the move into a push for fundraising. “Please join Tulsi in her fight for our core American values of free speech and fair elections,” it writes. “The Big Tech companies need to be held accountable for their actions, and that’s why we need Tulsi in the White House!”