The campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is suing Google, saying the search giant violated her free speech when it suspended the White House hopeful's ad account following the first primary debate.
What are the details?
Tulsi Now, Inc., filed a lawsuit against Google in federal court on Thursday, alleging the company shut off her ads in the hours following the first debate, while she was the most searched candidate in the race. The suit states that Google "plays favorites, with no warning, no transparency — and no accountability (until now)."
Attorney Brian Dunne, who represents Gabbard, told Politico that just as his client's "Google traffic was spiking, her Google ad account was taken offline." The lawyer said Google's explanation at the time was that the account was suspended "for violations of billing practices," but he insists there was no financial issue with the campaign's account.
When further pressed by the campaign, Google then said Tulsi Now, Inc.'s account had committed "a violation of the terms of service."
Google spokeswoman Riva Sciuto defended her company's actions, saying, "We have automated systems that flag unusual activity on all advertiser accounts — including large spending changes — in order to prevent fraud and protect our systems. In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shorty thereafter. 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 shared a statement from her campaign on Twitter explaining the suit, which laid out the reasoning behind the case before arguing "Google's discrimination against our campaign reveals the danger of their dominance & how the dominance of big tech over public discourse threatens core American values."
Gabbard is a four-term congresswoman from Hawaii and an Army National Guard veteran who entered the presidential field as relatively unknown. She has earned bipartisan attention for taking positions outside the Democratic mainstream, and has been an outspoken critic of "regime change wars."
The war veteran has also been an outspoken critic of big tech and the power firms have to stifle free speech. That point isn't lost on the Gabbard camp, who believes their ads could have been cut out of retaliation.
"You have a candidate who's been outwardly adverse towards Google, and is not necessarily seen as a champion of their favorite policy interests, who is reaching never before seen popularity," Dunne told Politico. "The timing is too coincidental."