Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has filed a federal lawsuit against Google for suspending her campaign’s advertising account following the first debate in June.
Gabbard was the most searched candidate at the time.
— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) June 27, 2019
Google had suspended the campaign’s advertising account for six hours from June 27th into June 28, immediately following the debate while searches for her were trending.
The lawsuit was filed in a Los Angeles federal court on Thursday, the New York Times reports. They are seeking an injunction against Google to prevent them from continuing to meddle in the election and damages of at least $50 million.
“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,” Rep. Gabbard said in a statement to 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.”
A Google spokesperson told the Hill that the account was suspended due to sudden “large spending changes” that were detected automatically.
“We have automated systems that flag unusual activity on all advertiser accounts – including large spending changes – in order to prevent fraud and protect our customers,” the spokeswoman said.
“In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter.”
Her campaign says that they had increased spending as she had become the most searched candidate following her performance in the debate.
The lawsuit also alleges that Google is sending their campaign emails to people’s spam folders at “a disproportionately high rate” compared to other campaigns.
“Google’s arbitrary and capricious treatment of Gabbard’s campaign should raise concerns for policymakers everywhere about the company’s ability to use its dominance to impact political discourse, in a way that interferes with the upcoming 2020 presidential election,” the lawsuit said. “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.”
Rep. Gabbard, a veteran, has broad appeal across party lines for her staunch anti-war and anti-censorship platform. She faces pushback from many establishment Democrats due to her blasting the party in 2016 for rigging the primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton.