Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call
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Election interference by YouTube?
Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard's YouTube videos were being suppressed in search results in the United States while she was trending, causing her videos and channel to show up below videos about her from other pages when her name is searched, according to comedian Steven Crowder.
Crowder posted tweets showing that on Oct. 18, as Gabbard was trending on Google and social media for her response to allegations by Hillary Clinton that she was a Russian asset, her search results on YouTube in the United States buried Gabbard's own content on the platform.
But, by Oct. 20, when the furor had died down some, her search results were back to normal, giving the appearance that they could have been deliberately suppressed by YouTube during the time when people were most likely to be searching for her name.
Both Crowder and Gabbard have significant histories of conflict with big tech companies.
Most recently, Crowder discovered that YouTube search results for his page and video in the U.S. were being treated unusually by YouTube algorithms, causing direct searches for his most popular videos to yield results that buried his actual page and videos below videos about him from other, less popular pages.
YouTube search results for a popular page typically list the actual page as the top result, followed by a selection of popular videos from that channel. For Crowder, his channel wasn't even the top result.
In other countries (Argentina, for example), Crowder's YouTube search results were showing normally — it was only for those searching in the U.S. that his videos were apparently being suppressed by the algorithm.
After Crowder publicized the problem on his Twitter page, website, and YouTube channel, something changed; his search results began showing up normally.
Gabbard has also had some issues with Google. In June, after the first Democratic presidential primary debate, the Gabbard campaign attempted to buy Google ads to make sure the campaign page was at the top of search results for her name. Gabbard had been the most searched for candidate after the debate.
But, Gabbard's Google advertising account was suspended for six hours, from 9:30 p.m. June 27 until 3:30 a.m. June 28. Google issued a statement claiming the suspension was due to "verify billing information and policy compliance," although a reason for the timing of that verification was never given.
Gabbard sued Google for $50 million in damages, alleging that Google infringed on her freedom of speech and obstructed the campaign's ability to fundraise.
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