HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is suing Google, claiming the internet behemoth suspended her Google Ads account in the hours immediately after the first Democratic presidential debate last month in a deliberate act of “election interference.”
The suit also says that her campaign emails are “disproportionately” sent to junk mail in Gmail.
In a statement, Gabbard said, "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. This is a threat to free speech, fair elections and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans.”
In the filing, the presidential candidate is seeking $50 million.
Why would Google target Gabbard?
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, says Google couldn’t “credibly explain” why the search engine suspended Gabbard’s Google Ads account in the hours after the presidential debate in June. But the Congresswoman does note that she’s been a vocal critic of Google and other tech giants.
“Google’s arbitrary and capricious treatment of Gabbard’s campaign should raise concerns for policymakers everywhere,” the suit says, “about the company’s ability to use its dominance to impact political discourse, in a way that interferes with the upcoming 2020 presidential election.”
But Google pushed back against Gabbard’s claims.
In a statement, a spokeswoman told The Hill that the suspension of the candidate’s Google Ads account was due to a sudden “large spending changes” that set off its automated systems. “We have automated systems that flag unusual activity on all advertiser accounts ― including large spending changes ― in order to prevent fraud and protect our customers,” the spokeswoman said.
Hawaii tech expert Ryan Ozawa said industry experts found the claims in Gabbard’s suit “laughable.”
“There are logical explanations for everything shes raising as a nefarious act,” he said.
“If a lot of people mark your emails as spam then that operator is going to more likely to mark your emails as spam. If you’ve changed your profile or your behavior in buying ads on Google they will lock your account down to make sure nothing bad has happened.”
HNN political analyst Colin Moore noted that in the wake of the June presidential debate, there was speculation that Russian bots were artificially boosting Gabbard’s metrics on search engines.
He said that while the claims in Gabbard’s might be a bit “far-fetched,” including the allegation that Google is infringing her First Amendment rights, the legal filing might be a smart move politically.
“This has been one of her platforms,” he said. “She is saying Google is so dominant that not being able to participate in the services this private company offers is tantamount to being silenced.”
This story will be updated.