[guest post by JVW]
Hawaii Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard (be still my heart!) has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Google, alleging that the tech giant has interfered in the election against her interests. Here is the explanation posted on her campaign site:
On June 28th, 2019 in the immediate hours following the first Democratic Presidential debate, millions of Americans were searching online for information about Tulsi Gabbard. In fact, according to multiple news reports, Tulsi was the most searched candidate on Google. Then, without any explanation, Google suspended Tulsi’s Google Ads account.
For hours, Tulsi’s campaign advertising account remained offline while Americans everywhere were searching for information about her. During this time, Google obfuscated and dissembled with a series of inconsistent and incoherent reasons for its actions. In the end, Google never explained to us why Tulsi’s account was suspended.
The Gabbard campaign understandably believes that the lack of Google Ads starting at roughly 9:30 pm on June 27 and lasting until roughly 3:30 am on June 28 led to fewer visits to her campaign site and thus to fewer donations than she otherwise would have received. They also allege that their campaign emails were being redirected into the spam folders of Gmail users at a much higher rate than other Democrat candidates’ campaign emails. In addition to the $50 million, the campaign is seeking an injunction against Google to prevent them from favoring or disfavoring any other campaign sites during the primary.
This of course comes on the heels of Google’s appearance at Senate hearings regarding claims of censorship over the past month, as well as similar scrutiny being applied to Facebook and Twitter, among others. This site has had posts time and again about sketchy practices in which opinions that exist outside of the officially acceptable shibboleths of the progressive gentry-techie crowd are purposely suppressed. Thus far the criticism of Google has largely (but not exclusively) come from the right, but perhaps given the fractured nature of the Democrat Party there are more and more elements of the left that are left wondering if their views a now deemed problematic as well.
This could be an innocent mistake, though the amazing timing of it is certainly notable, or it could be the actions of a rogue engineer like we saw at Twitter, or it really could be a coordinated campaign to favor certain Google-approved candidates (Biden? Harris? Buttigieg?) over others. I don’t expect Rep. Gabbard’s lawsuit to go very far, but at least the it might help put the tech giants on notice that their behavior this election cycle will not escape scrutiny.