On July 25, 2019, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard – the most searched-for candidate on Google for about 15 seconds last year – sued the tech giant for $50 million for violating her First Amendment rights.
In a decision published on March 4, 2020, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson shot down Gabbard’s lawsuit, leaving nothing but a smoking ruin behind.
Google is not now, nor (to the Court’s knowledge) has it ever been, an arm of the United States government.
Plaintiff’s essential allegation is that Google violated Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights by temporarily suspending its verified political advertising account for several hours shortly after a Democratic primary debate. Plaintiff’s claim, however, runs headfirst into two insurmountable barriers—the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent.
The First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.
The irony is unavoidable – a person who aspires to hold the highest political office in America doesn’t comprehend the core principle embedded in the First Amendment.
The First Amendment limits government, not private companies.
The point of filing Tulsi Gabbard’s lawsuit was probably to raise her profile, not win, but filing a lawsuit revealing her ignorance of the most basic principle in the Constitution is not a great choice.
Tulsi Gabbard isn’t a stupid woman, she’s an extremely ambitious combat veteran who, at the age of 21, became the youngest woman in history to join a United States legislature. She is also the first female combat veteran to run for President of the United States.
Courage and tenacity are great character attributes for everyone, especially political aspirants, but when ambition clouds good judgment it becomes a problem, as I explained in my ecent commentary about free speech and Prager University.
Prager University, as Gabbard did in her complaint about Google, pushed the convenient delusion that YouTube violated their right to free speech when it restricted their videos on its platform.
Just as the judge in Gabbard’s lawsuit last week, the US Court of Appeals delivered a scathing rebuke for wasting the court’s time in Prager University vs. YouTube.
Neither Google nor Youtube are government entities. They are private corporations; therefore First Amendment restrictions do not apply.
Hopefully these two high-profile decisions on the limits of the First Amendment will stop others from filing similar lawsuits in future. They are a waste of everyone’s time, energy and money.
Worse, they make the person or group filing the lawsuit look stupid. Not a winning attribute in anyone’s public persona or their private character.