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Judge Quashes Tulsi Gabbard's Case Against Google Alleging Free Speech Violation

A district judge on Wednesday quashed Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard's case against Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) subsidiary Google LLC.

Benzinga · 03/05/2020 10:43

A district judge on Wednesday quashed Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard's case against Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) subsidiary Google LLC.

What Happened

Gabbard had alleged that Google violated her right to free speech under the first amendment by shutting down the advertisement account of her campaign in the aftermath of the first Democratic debate ahead of the 2020 elections last year.

Stephen Wilson, the judge presiding over the case in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, dismissed Gabbard's argument that Google is a "state-actor" by virtue of offering political advertisements in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

"Google is not now, nor (to the Court's knowledge) has it ever been, an arm of the United States government," the judge said. "The text and original meaning of those Amendments, as well as this Court's [long-standing] precedents, establish that the Free Speech Clause prohibits only governmental abridgment of speech."

"Google does not hold primaries, it does not select candidates, and it does not prevent anyone from running for office or voting in elections. To the extent Google "regulates" anything, it regulates its own private speech and platform," Wilson noted.

Why It Matters

All major social media companies, including Google, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), and Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR), have faced increased scrutiny over the regulations of political advertisements on its platform.

At the time, Google said that Gabbard's account was quickly reinstated after automated systems erroneously took it down based on unusual activity, the Associated Press reported.

Late last year, CBS reported that Google and YouTube together took down more than 300 ads posted by President Donald Trump's reelection campaign team.

A federal appeals court had similarly quashed an appeal by conservative ideologue Prager University last week ruling that the first amendment doesn't apply to privately-run technology platforms, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Price Action

Alphabet's Class A shares closed 3.28% higher at $1,381.60 and traded 0.77% lower in the after-hours session at $1,371.00. Class C shares closed 3.36% and traded mostly unchanged in the after-hours.