Google is already interfering in the 2020 US presidential election, Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard claims – and she’s suing the search behemoth for blocking her campaign ads from appearing after the first primary debate.
Google inexplicably suspended Gabbard’s campaign advertising account for the crucial six hours following the first Democratic primary debate last month, a lawsuit filed by her campaign on Thursday alleges – a period in which hers was the most-searched name of all the candidates on the crowded stage. Google didn’t just violate her First Amendment rights by silencing her, the suit charges – it maliciously meddled with the democratic process.
Google could unilaterally and decisively end a presidential candidate’s bid for office if it chose to.
The search giant violated the Gabbard campaign’s federal and state rights to free speech, as well as a handful of commercial anti-discrimination laws, by pulling the ads without explanation, preventing her from reaching millions of voters with her message, campaign organization Tulsi Now claims in the suit, filed in the Central District of California. They’re seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief against Google for its illegal behavior,” plus “no less than $50 million” in damages, explaining that while Gabbard may have missed out on “potentially millions” in donations, the “ongoing threat of targeted intermeddling” in the upcoming election is more pressing.
Google controls the ability to be heard by a substantial portion of the country, and the world, on the Internet.
“Google obfuscated and dissembled with a series of inconsistent and incoherent reasons for its actions,” Tulsi Now wrote in an email to supporters on Thursday, explaining in the lawsuit that the company gave multiple conflicting reasons for the ad suspension before “suddenly revers[ing] course completely and reinstat[ing] the Account.” By that time, of course, most voters had gone to bed – and others had seen whatever search results Google opted to serve up instead of Gabbard’s campaign ads, an unappetizing prospect given the mainstream media’s unflattering portrayal of Gabbard thus far.
To this day, Google has not provided a straight answer – let alone a credible one – as to why Tulsi’s political speech was silenced right precisely when millions of people wanted to hear from her.
The lawsuit also accuses Google of shunting campaign communications to Gmail users’ spam folders more frequently than other political missives, attributing this to Google’s history of “playing favorites” politically – a practice which has been hinted at by multiple whistleblowers and in congressional testimony. It points to Gabbard’s advocacy for “reining in” Big Tech as the inspiration for the company’s backlash.