Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), a long-shot candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has filed suit against Google, claiming that the tech giant censored her campaign’s advertising account, the New York Times reports.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday, claims that Google unlawfully censored Gabbard’s campaign by temporarily suspending its advertising account on June 27 and 28, depriving it of donation dollars during the pivotal days following the first Democratic primary debate.
The Hawaii lawmaker led the Democratic field in search results in the wake of the debate due to the aggressive isolationist posture she assumed when asked about America’s involvement in the Middle East.
“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.
Gabbard’s campaign is seeking an injunction to prevent Google from suspending its advertising account again as well as $50 million in damages. She is the first presidential candidate to ever sue a large tech firm.
A Google spokesman told the Times that Gabbard’s advertising account was likely flagged by the company’s algorithm for unusual activity.
“In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said. “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.”
Gabbard has joined a growing bipartisan cohort of tech-skeptical lawmakers eager to combat what they see as Silicon Valley firms’ ideological censorship and privacy invasion.
“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.”