Tulsi Gabbard sues Google, alleging 'election interference' after Dem debate

Democratic presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard announced Thursday she is suing Google for alleged "election interference," claiming the tech giant suspended her campaign's Google Ads account just after the first Democratic presidential primary debate.

Gabbard, a military veteran and congresswoman from Hawaii, is an outsider candidate who has often been at odds with her fellow progressives.

Conservatives have long charged that Google discriminates against conservatives, and the Justice Department on Tuesday announced a sweeping antitrust review into large technology companies.

“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," Gabbard said in a statement. "This is a threat to free speech, fair elections and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans.”

Specifically, Gabbard claimed that multiple news reports indicated she was the most searched candidate on Google following the first Democratic primary debate on June 26. "Then, without any explanation, Google suspended Tulsi's Google Ads account," her office said in a statement, that called the move "arbitrary and capricious."

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"Big Tech’s dominance represents a clear and present danger to our democracy," Gabbard's team said.

"This is a threat to free speech, fair elections and to our democracy."

— Tulsi Gabbard

In a statement to Fox News, Google acknowledged that Gabbard's account had been suspended by its internal "system," but denied Gabbard's charges.

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"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," a Google spokesperson said. "In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly 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."

Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers criticized Google during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over allegations of bias against and censorship of conservative groups on the tech giant’s platforms.

“Google’s control over what people hear, watch, read, and say is unprecedented,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said. “Google can, and often does, control our discourse.”

Cruz added: “The American people are subject to overt censorship and covert manipulation” by Google’s algorithm.

Google’s vice president of global government affairs and public policy, Karan Bhatia, defended the tech giant – arguing that the company has no political bias and does not monitor content posted on its platforms. Bhatia noted that the company does censor or take down some content, but denied that there was any political motivation behind that.

“We work hard to fix our mistakes,” Bhatia said. “But these mistakes have affected both parties and are not a product of bias.”

He added: “We are not censoring speech on our platforms... We do have community guidelines against uploading, for example, videos that have violent imagery.”

In 2018, The Daily Caller published an article asserting that Google almost exclusively targets conservative sites for fact-checking -- and, in the process, often erroneously attributes statements to the conservative sites. Others blamed a software bug for the problem.

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Some researchers have alleged anti-conservative bias in Google's search results. A leaked video of top Google executives conducting a company-wide meeting after the 2016 election showed them tearfully lamenting the results of the race, which would send Trump to the White House.

A second volume of the report, examining "the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Russian interference, the Obama Administration’s response to Russian interference, the role of social media disinformation campaigns, and remaining counterintelligence questions," is expected to be released in fall 2019, pending a declassification review.

Fox News' Hillary Vaughn and Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report.