Presidential candidate and Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced Thursday that she is suing Google over claims it stifled the candidate’s freedom of speech when it blocked her from using its ad platform following the first presidential debate last month.
According to a report from The New York Times, Gabbard’s account was allegedly suspended for six hours between June 27 and June 28. Gabbard’s name became widely searched on Google following the debate, which aired on NBC the day prior on June 26.
According to Google Trends, Gabbard was only the most-searched candidate in her home state of Hawaii prior to the first debate, but was the most-searched candidate in a majority of states following the June 26 debate.
Brian Dunne, a lawyer for the Gabbard campaign, said the campaign decided to purchase more adverting from the platform following Gabbard’s performance in the first debate, but it found that Google had suspended its use over claims that the campaign violated its billing and advertising guidelines, per Politico. Dunne said that the campaign had no way to speak to potential supporters during the six-hour ban.
In a statement to Politico, Google said that the suspension was automatically triggered, and that Gabbard’s account was only offline for a short period of time.
“In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter,” a Google spokesperson told Politico. “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.”
Lawyers for Gabbard claimed that the search and advertising company has still yet to give the campaign a “straight answer” for suspending the candidate’s Google Ad account.
According to Time, Gabbard most notably sparred during the June debate with Ohio congressman Rep. Tim Ryan over whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. While Ryan said he would keep troops in the region, Gabbard insisted that the U.S. needed to bring home troops still in the region.
The Hawaii Democrat has been a critic of the technology industry. In March, Gabbard shared a tweet by fellow presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, adding that she agreed that big tech companies like Facebook and Google needed to be broken up, and that she planned to introduce legislation to do so in the House.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I agree with Senator Warren on the need to break up big tech companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon. Will be introducing similar legislation in U.S. House. https://t.co/OrdOqH0ZFB— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) March 12, 2019
Gabbard will participate in CNN’s second presidential debates, which will happen next week on July 30 and July 31 in Detroit. After a CNN draw, Gabbard was selected to participate in the July 31 debate, and will face off against other Democratic candidates, which include former Vice President Joe Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, per Vox.
In an interview earlier this week, Gabbard claimed that she believed Harris was not qualified to be president, per RealClearPolitics.