Google is asking a federal judge to either dismiss a lawsuit brought by Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard over a brief suspension of her Google Ads account, or transfer the matter to a different locale.
Gabbard’s claim “is both filed in the wrong court and wholly without merit,” Google writes in papers filed Friday with U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson in the Central District of California.
The company is responding to a complaint filed by Gabbard’s campaign in July, when she claimed that Google violated her First Amendment rights by suspending her Ads account.
Gabbard alleged that her account was suspended for several hours on June 28 — two days after she participated in a debate with other Democratic hopefuls.
The lawsuit alleged that the suspension reflected an attempt by Google “to silence Tulsi Gabbard,” noting that she had called for greater regulation of the company.
Google said at the time that its automated anti-fraud systems can suspend accounts due to unusual activity, and that her account was reinstated soon after its automated system triggered a suspension.
The company now argues that Gabbard hasn’t offered any factual support for her claims that Google suspended her account for political reasons. What’s more, Google says, it isn’t the government, and therefore the company is allowed to decide what material to allow on its platform.
“As an initial matter, any suggestion that Google was attempting to abridge plaintiff’s speech by briefly suspending its ads account for a few hours in order to protect plaintiff from potential fraud defies logic,” the company writes. “But plaintiff’s claim faces a fatal threshold problem: Google is a private company, not a state actor, and it is not bound by these constitutional limitations on the power of the government.”
Google also says its agreement with advertisers specifies that any lawsuits must be brought in courts within Santa Clara County. Therefore, the company says, the lawsuit should have been brought in the Northern District of California.
Numerous judges have recently dismissed lawsuits by people or organizations who have accused Google, Twitter and Facebook of “censorship.”
In all of those cases, the judges have ruled that Google, Facebook and Twitter are private companies — as opposed to government entities — and therefore can decide how to treat material on their platforms.