Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has criticized the power of big tech and how much influence it has over online discourse.
Speaking to Dave Rubin of The Rubin Report, Gabbard recounted her lawsuit against tech giant Google. In July, Gabbard announced a lawsuit against Google for banning her advertising account after the first presidential debate, preventing her from capitalizing on the fact that she was the number one candidate to trend during the debate.
Above all of the candidates, Gabbard was number one in Google Trends during the debate, but her campaign couldn’t capture that audience as she couldn’t use her account. Her campaign also couldn’t speak to anyone from Google to reinstate it. Gabbard called this election interference as not allowing a fair playing field to all candidates could alter the outcome of the primaries. Speaking to Rubin, Gabbard said that, even as of this date, she’s not had a clear answer from Google about why they suspended her account when it mattered most.
“We filed this lawsuit, not just because of what happened there”, she told Rubin, “but because of the kind of power that Google has, as this huge tech monopoly, to interfere in our public discourse.”
Speaking about the severity of the problem, Gabbard said, “If this can be done to me as a member of Congress running for the highest office in the land, that means it can be done to anyone running for any office, anywhere in the country…be done to any individual in this country.
“We are now I think as a country, where people, regardless of your political ideologies or how you are using these platforms, are in a position where freedom of speech is threatened and you have such a big tech monopoly with the power to provide undue influence – both through their algorithms as well as suppressing people’s freedom of speech,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard has distanced herself from the other Democratic candidates as she is calling for a reversal in the recent trend of big tech companies to suppress speech online.
Earlier in the year, the congresswoman said that Facebook deciding who can speak means “First Amendment rights going out the window.” Gabbard said that social platforms are trying to “get the best of both worlds,” marketing themselves as free and open communication platforms and expelling those whose ideas and expressions they dislike.
Doing exactly that, YouTube, owned by Google, recently put out a post saying that it was an “open” platform supporting all voices, when – in reality – the number of voices being silenced by YouTube is increasing by the day. YouTube is removing over 100,000 videos per quarter for what it defines as “hate speech”, a term that Google is privately defining and adjudicating in-house.
Supporters have praised Gabbard for standing up for free speech online early on in her campaign. Even before Gabbard had her own issues with Google, she was making freedom of speech a major campaign point. In March Gabbard wrote, “We must be willing to fight for the right of all Americans to express their views, even when we disagree with them. We must encourage unfettered discussion of public issues and stand united to stop Facebook and others from attempting to censor/stifle/influence public debate.”
Gabbard’s sentiment has been heavily contrasted with that of her opponent, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren too has briefly talked about tech companies stifling speech. The difference is that Warren only called out big tech’s suppression of speech when Facebook removed one of her own ads. Then, once her advert was reinstated, she went back to calls for the tech companies’ policing of speech online.
Speaking about antitrust proceedings against Google, Gabbard today said, “When you’ve got an entity, a private corporation, that becomes so powerful that they have that ability to shift things or influence things in their direction for whatever their interests or goals are, to the detriment of the consumer, I think that’s where government should have a role to come in.”
Speaking on the downplaying of freedom and liberty from the other Democratic candidates, Gabbard said that she was “disheartened” by it because of “all of those who have sacrificed for our freedoms.”