In context: Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard filed a lawsuit against Google on Thursday for pulling her campaign’s advertising. The lawsuit claims that the search giant suspended her ads for six hours after the first Democratic debate.
The New York Times notes that for a brief time following the debate, Gabbard was the most-searched candidate on Google. Her campaign, Tulsi Now Inc claims that had the ads not been pulled, her website might have wound up on the top of the search results. The lawsuit also alleges that campaign emails were being filtered into people’s spam folders more than other candidates.
Google confirmed that it had pulled Gabbard’s advertising for a short time. It explained that algorithms had automatically flagged an increase in spending. This spike constitutes "unusual activity," and the ads were temporarily suspended to prevent fraud.
TULSI2020: In the hours following the 1st debate, while millions of Americans searched for info about Tulsi, Google suspended her search ad account w/o explanation. It is vital to our democracy that big tech companies can’t affect the outcome of elections https://t.co/n7Y7y2dQZ9— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) July 25, 2019
3/3 - 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. They threaten our democracy & #Tulsi will fight back on behalf of all Americans. https://t.co/n7Y7y2dQZ9— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) July 25, 2019
“In this case, our system triggered a suspension, and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter,” a spokesperson told the NYT. “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 is a dark-horse candidate, which is likely what triggered the sudden interest in her after the debate. One issue she has been campaigning on is the crackdown on Big Tech. Gabbard agrees with Senator Elizabeth Warren that tech companies like Google and Facebook need to be broken up and regulated. Their monopolistic structure and recent complaints of censorship are cited reasons for the call.
However, the grounds for the lawsuit seem a bit shaky. For instance, the filing claims that Gabbard’s emails were getting filtered as spam more than other candidates but provides no explanation or proof on how it came to this conclusion. Additionally, buying a ton of ads because Gabbard was trending, thus triggering fraud algorithms seems like a misstep from the campaign rather than on Google’s part.
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