In July 2019, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard filed a lawsuit against Google for $50 million over censorship claims, she accused Google in purposefully suspending her Google Ads account for several hours after Gabbard participated in the first presidential debates in June.
The Gabbard campaign lawsuit says, “Since at least June 2019, Google has used its control over online political speech to silence Tulsi Gabbard, a candidate millions of Americans want to hear from. With this lawsuit, Tulsi seeks to stop Google from further intermeddling in the 2020 United States Presidential Election.”
At the time, Google withheld its ads shortly after a Democratic presidential debate. This move resulted in speculations saying Google’s abrupt move could have been affiliated to Gabbard’s public advocacy towards the breakup of large tech companies.
Tulsi Gabbard has failed to justify her allegations regarding the First Amendment clause that forbids the government from suppressing free speech applied to Google as a private company.
Federal judge Stephen V. Wilson wrote in his decision that the Gabbard campaign lawsuit was not able to authenticate the government’s regulation of elections in parallel with Google’s regulation of its platform. He suspended the lawsuit and has acknowledged Google’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the company.
“Google does not hold primaries, it does not select candidates, and it does not prevent anyone from running for office or voting in elections,“ Wilson added.
A Google spokesperson refused to comment on the court ruling. However, the company explained that an automated system has flagged the campaign advertising account due to suspicious activity. But when it realized that the system has acted in error, Google immediately reinstated the account.
In the past hearings, Google clarified several times that no person controls or choose which accounts or contents gets flagged down –algorithms control most moderation, and sometimes algorithms make mistakes.
A tech lobbyist, familiar with the matter agreed with Google, saying Google suspending her ad account makes sense because when Gabbard campaign suddenly bought a large number of ads, it triggered an automatic suspension over fraud concerns.
Tulsi Gabbard is Hawaiin Democrat, known for resisting against her own party list. Gabbard openly stated to the public her plan to run for reelection.