Federal judge in California rejects Tulsi Gabbard's 'free speech' lawsuit against Google
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, photo by AFGE (2013 Civil Rights Luncheon) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In July 2019, Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that the tech giant violated her 1st Amendment rights when it briefly suspended her presidential campaign’s ad account. But on Wednesday, March 4, a California judge dismissed the congresswoman’s case and rejected her arguments.

Gabbard, in her lawsuit, asked for $50 million in damages because of “serious and continuing violations of Tulsi’s right to free speech” and alleged that Google “helps to run elections” with its search engine and advertising platform. But Judge Stephen Wilson of California’s Central District Court vehemently disagreed, asserting that what Gabbard’s case “fails to establish is how Google’s regulation of its own platform is in any way equivalent to a governmental regulation of an election.”

Wilson ruled that because Google is an “undisputedly private company” — not an agency of the government — Gabbard’s claims of censorship did not hold up.

On July 25, 2019, Gabbard tweeted, “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.” And her lawsuit argued, “Since at least June 2019, Google has used its control over online political speech to silence Tulsi Gabbard, a candidate millions of Americans want to hear from.”

It was also in July 2019 that Google representative Riva Sciuto, in response to Gabbard’s complaints, said that her account was flagged by its automated system for what looked like unusual activity but that the mistake was quickly corrected — and the account was restored.

Despite low poll numbers, Gabbard remains in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as of Thursday morning, March 5. The congresswoman hasn’t qualified for the last five Democratic presidential debates; the last one she appeared in was in November 2019. But Gabbard has yet to drop out of the race and is among the four candidates who remains after Super Tuesday. With Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, billionaire Tom Steyer and former South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg all having dropped out, the Democratic field is down to four candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gabbard.