Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Sues Google, Using All The Same Debunked Legal Theories Others Have Tried

from the best-of-luck dept

Well, here’s an odd one: the Presidential campaign for Tulsi Gabbard is now suing Google claiming, among other things, that the company has “violated her First Amendment rights” by temporarily shutting down her advertising account and also funneling some of her campaign emails to spam in Gmail. This lawsuit is a complete non-starter, and makes use of the same debunked legal theories that others have used against social media companies. First, it argues that closing her Google advertising account was obviously because people at Google didn’t want her message getting out after the first Democratic Presidential debates.

On June 28, 2019?at the height of Gabbard?s popularity among Internet searchers in the immediate hours after the debate ended, and in the thick of the critical post-debate period (when television viewers, radio listeners, newspaper readers, and millions of other Americans are discussing and searching for presidential candidates), Google suspended Tulsi?s Google Ads account without warning.

For hours, as millions of Americans searched Google for information about Tulsi, and as Tulsi was trying, through Google, to speak to them, her Google Ads account was arbitrarily and forcibly taken offline. Throughout this period, the Campaign worked frantically to gather more information about the suspension; to get through to someone at Google who could get the Account back online; and to understand and remedy the restraint that had been placed on Tulsi?s speech?at precisely the moment when everyone wanted to hear from her.

In response, the Campaign got opacity and an inconsistent series of answers from Google. First, Google claimed that the Account was suspended because it somehow violated Google?s terms of service. (It didn?t.) Later, Google changed its story. Then it changed its story again. Eventually, after several hours of bizarre and conflicting explanations while the suspension dragged on, Google suddenly reversed course completely and reinstated the Account. To this day, Google has not provided a straight answer?let alone a credible one?as to why Tulsi?s political speech was silenced right precisely when millions of people wanted to hear from her.

But in context, the explanation for Google?s suspension of the Account at exactly the wrong time is no great mystery: Google (or someone at Google) didn?t want Americans to hear Tulsi Gabbard?s speech,so it silenced her. This has happened time and time again across Google platforms. Google controls one of the largest and most important forums for political speech in the entire world, and it regularly silences voices it doesn?t like, and amplifies voices it does.

Of course, if you’re at all familiar with how this works — as we’ve explained for years now — you’ll know that there’s a much more credible reason than someone at Google trying to sabotage Gabbard’s campaign: it’s that making these kinds of decisions at scale is effectively impossible, and mistakes are made or situations turn up that, at first glance, certainly appear to violate terms of service. This is especially true in political advertising, a part of the social media ecosystem that is under even more scrutiny than other parts, as many people believe that was abused during the 2016 election, and there are various efforts underway to make platforms even more careful about what kind of political advertising they allow. Given that backdrop it’s not at all surprising that Gabbard’s campaign might get caught in the crossfire.

Hell, we’ve experience something kind of similar — in which Google has (on multiple occasions) removed advertising from our site and threatened to close down our account entirely based on its broken ad review system. It happens, and we complain about it — but never in a million years would I think that Google was purposefully targeting someone by doing that. It’s because we recognize that these kinds of moderation decisions are difficult and at scale, even a small percentage of mistakes will end up hitting a lot of people. But that’s Google’s right. It’s Google’s platform, after all.

Also, what’s particularly odd about this is that the focus of the lawsuit is on Gabbard’s campaign losing her advertising account. Anyone doing a Google search for Gabbard was still getting tons of organic search results for Gabbard. In effect, this is Gabbard saying that it’s somehow against the law to not accept her money to put her own messages at the top of Google, above the organic ones. Who knew that there was a legal right to skip to the top of all Google results if you’ve got money to burn? No one. Because there is no such right.

And that’s not all. The conspiracy theories go deeper:

And Google?s election manipulation doesn?t stop with its search platform. For example, Google?s email platform Gmail sends communications from Tulsi into people?s Spam folders at a disproportionately high rate. In fact, Gmail appears to classify communications from Tulsi Gabbard as Spam at a rate higher than other similar communications?for example, those from other Democratic presidential candidates. There is no technical explanation for this disparity.

Uh, yeah, there is a “technical explanation for this disparity.” (1) Spam filters, like any other filters, don’t always work well and often filter “legitimate” mail, (2) lots of people may have marked Gabbard’s emails as spam, training the system to treat them as such, or (3) Gabbard’s emailing practices may have been more spam-like than other candidates. It’s also possible that she’s wrong that her emails went to spam more often than other candidates. Either way, there are lots of possible explanations that are significantly more plausible than some nefarious plot in Larry Page’s office to take Gabbard out of the running.

Either way, like many of the other troll lawsuits over basic moderation decisions, this one appears to be a lot more performative than serious in any legal sense. First off, it’s highly questionable why this is a federal lawsuit as opposed to a state one, since most of the claims are state ones. The federal claims are laughable and should be tossed out pretty quick. Also, the complaint has all sorts of bizarre, laughable conspiracy theory elements to it, including the idea that Google employees backing Obama and Clinton over the last few presidential cycles is clear evidence of their bias in how the search engine operates (it is not). There’s a claim that because searching for “SESTA” on Google turns up an EFF site as the top result… that’s somehow proof of Google tilting the scales (not mentioned: EFF has a complaint before the FTC about Google, and receives very, very little money from any corporate donor, including Google).

She also claims that “the government” is somehow responsible for “ceding the internet to Google” because the FTC declined to file a complaint against Google in 2012 over unrelated issues, despite some FTC staff believing there was a legitimate case (not enough of them did to support actually filing a case, but Gabbard seems to chalk that up to a conspiracy to give the internet to Google, rather than a lack of evidence and the realization in the FTC that it would likely lose such a case).

Bizarrely, Gabbard’s complaint completely rewrites the history of net neutrality in a blatantly false way to support her nonsense legal arguments:

Other disturbing data points about the power wielded by Google and other major tech companies like Facebook have emerged in recent years. In the early 2010s, the FCC rightly considered whether net neutrality regulations, which sought to provide equal access to the Internet by governing Internet Service Providers, should also be extended to apply to Internet content platforms like Google.

However, during the Trump presidency, the FCC has not only declined to extend net neutrality protections to apply to Internet content platforms like Google, it has revoked those regulations that were already existing. See [n the Matter of Restoring Internet Freedom, 33 F.C.C. Rcd. 311 (2018); United States Telecom Ass?nv. FCC, 825 F.3d 674, 729 (D.C. Cir. 2016). Companies like Google have more leeway and ability than ever to bend the Internet to their will.

That… is a bizarre and, at best, misleading reading of net neutrality history (at worst, it’s manipulative). No one ever seriously considered “extending” net neutrality rules to Google because (1) the only people who suggested it were AT&T mouthpieces trolling the whole net neutrality process, (2) it’s not part of the FCC’s mandate to handle regulation of edge service providers, and (3) there is no such thing as “net neutrality” for search engines because their whole business is about providing recommendations, which by definition cannot be “neutral”. A “neutral” search engine is one that gives you totally random results. A working search engine is one that gives you “biased” results. Biased in support of relevance to whatever you’re looking for.

As for the actual claims in the lawsuit, they’re all repeats of failed claims elsewhere. They won’t go far. First up, there’s a laughable 1st Amendment claim. As everyone knows, Google is not bound by the First Amendment as it is not a government actor. Yet, Gabbard (incredibly weakly) argues that it is:

Google creates, operates, and controls its platform and services, including but not limited to Google Search, Google Ads, and Gmail as a public forum or its functional equivalent by intentionally and openly dedicating its platform for public use and public benefit, inviting the public to utilize Google as a forum for free speech. Google serves as a state actor by performing an exclusively and traditionally public function by regulating free speech within a public forum and helping to run elections. Accordingly, speech cannot be arbitrarily, unreasonably, or discriminatorily excluded, regulated, or restricted on the basis of viewpoint or the identity of the speaker on Google?s platform.

Google?s actions, and the actions of its agents, deprive the Campaign of its constitutional rights. Google has restricted the Campaign?s speech and expressive conduct by adopting and applying subjective, vague, and overbroad criteria (the ?Subjective Criteria?) that give Google unfettered and unbridled discretion to censor speech for arbitrary, capricious, or nonexistent reasons. The Subjective Criteria fail to convey a sufficiently definite warning to the Campaign (or the public) as to what is prohibited or restricted and, as a result, they allow Google to censor speech at its whim and based on subjective animus towards the speaker and/or her particular political or religious viewpoint.

So, this complaint is basically using the “magic words” legal theory. For someone to be a state actor, they need to be operating a service that is “exclusively and traditionally” run by the government. But beyond saying that Google does this, the complaint makes literally no effort whatsoever to back up that claim. Because it can’t. Because it’s laughable. I mean, just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court made it quite clear that the bar to be considered a state actor to be bound by the 1st Amendment is much, much higher. From the Supreme Court’s ruling in Manhattan Community Access:

It is not enough that the federal, state, or local government exercised the function in the past, or still does. And it is not enough that the function serves the public good or the public interest in some way. Rather, to qualify as a traditional, exclusive public function within the meaning of our state-action precedents, the government must have traditionally and exclusively performed the function.

The Court has stressed that ?very few? functions fall into that category…. Under the Court?s cases, those functions include, for example, running elections and operating a company town…. The Court has ruled that a variety of functions do not fall into that category, including, for example: running sports associations and leagues, administering insurance payments, operating nursing homes, providing special education, representing indigent criminal defendants, resolving private disputes, and supplying electricity.

Gabbard arguing that Google is “running elections” is laughable.

The state claims aren’t going to win any fans either. Gabbard — like every damn troll who sues social media sites — tries to use California’s Unruh act, claiming this is a civil rights violation. So far, each of those has failed, including one that just failed last week when some Russian trolls lost their lawsuit against Facebook. The ruling in that case seems like the thing that Gabbard’s lawyers should have read before filing this nonsense nuisance lawsuit:

Courts have rejected the notion that private corporations providing services via the internet are public fora for purposes of the First Amendment. For instance, in Prager Univ. v. Google LLC, this Court rejected the notion that ?private social media corporations . . . are state actors that must regulate the content of their websites according to the strictures of the First Amendment? under public forum analysis. 2018 WL 1471939, at *8 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2018) (emphasis in original). In addition, the Ebeid court rejected the argument that Facebook is a public forum. 2019 WL 2059662, at *6. Moreover, in Buza v. Yahoo!, Inc., the court held that the plaintiff?s assertion that ?Yahoo!?s services should be seen as a ?public forum? in which the guarantees of the First Amendment apply is not tenable under federal law. As a private actor, Yahoo! has every right to control the content of material on its servers, and appearing on websites that it hosts.? 2011 WL 5041174, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 24, 2011). Furthermore, in Langdon v. Google, Inc., the court held that ?Plaintiff?s analogy of [Google and other] Defendants? private networks to shopping centers and [plaintiff?s] position that since they are open to the public they become public forums is not supported by case law.? 474 F. Supp. 2d 622, 632 (D. Del. 2007).

At bottom, the United States Supreme Court has held that property does not ?lose its private character merely because the public is generally invited to use it for designated purposes.? Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, 407 U.S. 551, 569 (1972). Thus, simply because Facebook has many users that create or share content, it does not mean that Facebook, a private social media company by Plaintiffs? own admission in the complaint, becomes a public forum.

Much of the lawsuit is based on a two massive assumptions, neither of which are accurate:

  1. That Google is a state actor
  2. That Google acted arbitrarily and capriciously in deliberately targeting Gabbard

The entire lawsuit falls apart if even one of those is not accurate, and neither of them are.

Even stranger: the complaint doesn’t even seem to recognize that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act exists. It makes no mention of it, nor attempts to get around it. It just pretends it’s not there. Which is kind of strange.

This case is going to get laughed out of court. It’s even possible that Google could make an anti-SLAPP argument here and stick the Gabbard campaign with its legal fees.

There’s one other element in all of this that should be mentioned, is that even though this seems to disprove the argument that Google is somehow targeting “conservatives” (Gabbard is a Democrat with (mostly) typical Democratic party positions), the same folks on social media who constantly whine about Google censoring conservatives are… cheering on this announcement (and, no I’m not linking), even as it partially disproves a key part of their argument. It does seem notable that part of the lawsuit actually quotes Breitbart and highlights that Breitbart claims that Google “routinely censors conservative viewpoints” (and Breitbart ran multiple articles cheering on this lawsuit).

More recently, Google employees engaged in an internal lobbying campaign to block Breitbart from Google?s advertising program. As part of this internal lobbying campaign, one Google employee pressed that ?[t|]here is obviously a moral argument to be made [to blocking Breitbart] as well as a business case.? While it?s not entirely clear what ?business case? the Google employee was referring to, it?s important to note that Breitbart has been among Google?s staunchest critics, alleging that the company routinely censors conservative viewpoints.

I’m not sure what anyone thinks this proves. If the argument — as Breitbart pushes — is that Google censors conservatives (a statement made repeatedly without proof) this whole lawsuit partially debunks that. If the argument is that Google censors views it doesn’t like, well, again there’s no actual evidence of that, but either way, are they making the argument that there’s some sort of “must carry” rules, which is just utter nonsense. Like this lawsuit.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Sues Google, Using All The Same Debunked Legal Theories Others Have Tried”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
78 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: staff

"as President, the job requires ability to monitor/manage a huge staff.
no President actually has the ability to do that"

Incredible claims require incredible evidence.

There has not been one president that has been capable of monitoring/ managing their staff? Keep in mind that the word manage implies delegation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: staff

a US President nominally manages an Executive organization with almost four million personnel and 116 major departments performing thousands of complex activities.
No person on the planet could possibly be knowledgeable in all this, much less actually manage and competently direct all Executive Branch agencies.
A typical President never even learns the names of his major department heads. Most everything is loosely delegated and the agencies operate semi-independently.

Oliver Closon says:

Government-conferred IMMUNE "platforms" though, are different.

At bottom, the United States Supreme Court has held that property does not "lose its private character merely because the public is generally invited to use it for designated purposes."

However, I don’t see much hope in THIS suit. It’s another that makes me wonder if, like the ACLU, isn’t mere strategy intended to be lost and establish the precious "precedent".

Nonetheless, Section 230 "platforms" are NOT property, and exist SOLELY because of NEW KIND OF government-conferred IMMUNITY that print publishers never and do not now have.

Oliver Closon says:

Re: Re: Government-conferred Imaginary Property

Ah, so you understand that Copyrights aren’t property, eh?

You’ve tangled yourself, "Gary", who’s actually astro-turfing by Timothy Geigner, aka "Dark Helmet".

Copy-rights are NOT property, no more than your 1A right to be stupid is.

The works they protect ARE property, though, as nearly every lawyer will tell you, and as masnicks will be forced to admit.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Government-conferred Imaginary Property

Copy-rights are NOT property, no more than your 1A right to be stupid is.

The works they protect ARE property, though, as nearly every lawyer will tell you, and as masnicks will be forced to admit.

This is (almost, though not entirely) exactly backwards. I actually agree that the copyrights THEMSELVES, are a form of property. I mean, you can buy and sell it. You can exclude others from holding the copyright. It has all the typical aspects of property. Also, the underlying "fixed* version may also be property. A book, for example, or a movie reel, is quite clearly, property.

The problem we have is when people conflate the actual property right in the legal monopoly, with a property right in the underlying content. That’s clearly not a property right in any normal sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoid_schizophrenia

The clinical picture is dominated by relatively stable and often persecutory delusions that are usually accompanied by hallucinations, particularly of the auditory variety (hearing voices), and perceptual disturbances. These symptoms can have a huge effect on functioning and can negatively affect quality of life.

Oliver Closon says:

Re: Government-conferred IMMUNE "platforms" though, ar

I’m reminded to expand on the "property" bit, especially with Techdirt claiming that books music and movies are NOT property, but free for anyone to take, "share", monetize, whatever.

But, OH, hosting a web-site, now that’s property! — No. Only the physical part of mechanism is "property": the web-site (or page) is in fact the creation of USER. — Ever heard the phrase "user generated content"? That means separate from host legally. Section 230 makes that separation.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Government-conferred IMMUNE "platforms" though

I’m reminded to expand on the "property" bit, especially with Techdirt claiming that books music and movies are NOT property, but free for anyone to take, "share", monetize, whatever.

Hi. Owner of site here. Can you point to ANYWHERE, where we have said any of this? Your own fever dreams don’t count.

The issue I think you’re having, is that you seem to think that because we dispute the idea of copyright as being a typical property right that it means that we say everything should be free for anyone to take. We have not said that. You pretending we have, repeatedly, is more a statement of your unwillingness to discuss, well, anything in an intellectually honest way. Because you’re a troll.

I do wonder, though. You’ve been trolling this site for so many years. Why?

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Government-conferred IMMUNE "platforms" th

I think their comments conflate ‘real’ property, the physical books, cds, and dvds, with digital property, digital versions of real property, and with intelectual property, the latter of which I believe has been argued on techdirt to not fit well in the category of property rights due to the number of ways IP management differs from real property. I think in this screed they conflate copyrights and patents and trademarks. They then take reasoned arguments about how the various IP regimes could be improved, and how rightsholders could change business models, intertwine them with the statements made by more anti-IP Techdirt commenters (who are actually Techdirt writers astroturfing their real opinions), leading to a massive argument which makes no sense to people who understand context and the idea that different things are different and that the passage of time exists.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

intertwine them with the statements made by more anti-IP Techdirt commenters (who are actually Techdirt writers astroturfing their real opinions)

Gonna need a hefty [Citation Needed] there, as despite repeated claims along those lines by the trolls I’ve yet to see any credible evidence(or really any evidence that wasn’t paranoid ramblings).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Government-conferred IMMUNE "platforms" though

He means that his insanity has drifting into outright communism recently – he proposes that any site that becomes popular enough ceases to be private property and should be seized by the government in order to be treated as public property and the lack of censorship rights that entails. All without stating where the line should be where the state seizes private property, of course.

Then, he’ll be whining about socialism in the next topic without a shred of self awareness or irony.

Anonymous Coward says:

Getting around spam filters

In fact, Gmail appears to classify communications from Tulsi Gabbard as Spam at a rate higher than other similar communications—for example, those from other Democratic presidential candidates. There is no technical explanation for this disparity.

Sure there is. The folks handling the email campaigns for the other candidates are just more adept at making sure they’re not crossing thresholds that make their emails look like spam…
After all, to me all those messages are spam and the "problem" is that some of them are still getting through to my Inbox rather than rightfully going to the spam folder. (I mean, if I want to hear from these ‘people’ I would add them to my Contact list so that I would)

Robert Beckman (profile) says:

Wrong Point

This article seems to be missing her underlying point (ignoring many of the details, which Mike as usual gets right).

Her point, as I read it, is that Google is acting out of malice, not out of incompetence. And to show that, she explains that Google lied about why it took the actions that it did. Under her own reasoning, if Google had told the truth as Mike sees it (and which I think is likely at least most of the truth) that they’d simply screwed up because in their experience changes in advertising patterns like they saw with her account were often caused by fraud, and so they’ve trained their models to find similar actions and prevent fraud, even though they know that sometimes they’ll have a false positive, simply because getting it right most of the time (with a few false positives) is better than letting the majority of false negatives get through.

Her claim, then, is that this defense must not be true, because if it were, Google could have simply said so in the beginning. Since they said otherwise, their claim now is preempted by their prior defense.

Of course, what I think is just that Google screwed up in the initial trigger, and then BS’d their excuse, not expecting to have to substantiate it. I don’t think it was intentionally told to mislead, but rather to just make her go away, because that’s what Google usually does, and they almost always get away with it, so they’ve had no reason to learn otherwise.

Of course, we also need to consider the alternative, even if we choose to discard it: if Google really were trying to support the established American Left, but trying to do so surreptitiously, would it look any different than what Gabbard and many conservatives claim? If you think this is how it would look, how do you tell them apart?

Of course, what Google could do is publicly state that their anti-fraud (and similar) services are tuned to minimize the targeted event without massive false positives, rather than to catch whatever they can while minimizing false positives Google has made the decision that in their business it’s better that some innocent people go to jail than let a guilty person go free, which our justice system is (at least theoretically) aligned the opposite way: that it’s better that 10 guilty men go free than an innocent be imprisoned. We’d all be a lot better off if we (you, me, Google, candidates, the government) were open about where we each stand on this, as it can vary from topic to topic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wrong Point

I’m pretty sure that Google can actually choose to back whatever candidate they want and there’s not any sort of Constitutional issue since it’s a private entity and not a government one.
There’s no proof that this happened, but even if there was, I believe Google is within their legal rights to do so (there’s no legal requirement that applies here as far as I’m aware, but I’m not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be)

Robert Beckman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wrong Point

There are campaign contribution limits, this would count as a “in kind” donation potentially, not sure how (or even if) anti-one person, but I don’t care who else wins would work for that.

The rest is social/political – from the right wing commentators I’ve seen, as well as from the YouTube Union, it’s not so much the support or hindrance, but the dishonesty in it. For example, if you go to a car dealer who advertises that they sell at cost and only make their profits from service you’d feel pretty good about working with them. But if you later learned they were lying about that, even if it wasn’t fraudulent under the law, you’d be pretty pissed.

As I understand the Right, it’s the dishonesty that particularly galling, with tech companies as well as the media. They all proclaim themselves neutral, when in practice they aren’t – they’re American left establishment, just like the DNC was when they cheated Bernie’s nomination in 2016. Or at least that’s their view. If anyone here is an actual American conservative who can correct that, feel free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Wrong Point

Right, I’d be pissed, but as you pointed out, it’s not unlawful, just crappy customer treatment… none of which is a constitutional issue.

As for ‘in-kind’ donations… how does that even apply here? was google accused of gifting to others and this politician feels left out? (I didn’t see that, but maybe I’m not squinting right).

The complaint seems to be all about constitutional rights and I don’t see where any of the complaints are applicable to the situation… now if Google were a government entity or somehow cooperating with the government in one of the rather limited ways where constitutional rights would start applying, that would be another matter… but that’s not the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Wrong Point

“As I understand the Right, it’s the dishonesty that particularly galling”

They are after all massive hypocrites.

“just like the DNC was when they cheated Bernie’s nomination in 2016.”

That’s not what actually happened. But hey you’ve managed several paragraphs of right wing propaganda. So at least your paymasters are getting their moneys worth.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Wrong Point

Of course, what I think is just that Google screwed up in the initial trigger, and then BS’d their excuse, not expecting to have to substantiate it. I don’t think it was intentionally told to mislead, but rather to just make her go away, because that’s what Google usually does, and they almost always get away with it, so they’ve had no reason to learn otherwise.

I suspect that even that’s overthinking it, as it was likely that those her staff were interacting with either didn’t know and were just saying whatever came to mind in an attempt to get her to go away, or realized that the system had screwed up and didn’t want to put a target on their backs by telling the presidential candidate that the company they work for screwed up, as making that sort of admission is probably not a very healthy move professionally.

Should they have just owned up to the system screwing up? Sure. Is it surprising that they didn’t right away? No, not really.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Wrong Point

Of course, the only BS’ing came from the plaintiff.

Operative Me on Ars Technica wrote:
Now, anyone who has worked with customer service is probably familiar with the concept that different people will offer different explanations, especially as you get bumped to a higher support tier (which makes sense, people with the most knowledge will have the most competent answer). The kicker here though is the statements they insist are wildly different explanations:

  • problems with billing information or violations of our advertising policies"
  • identified suspicious behavior in the payment activity in your account
  • temporarily suspended to verify your billing information and policy compliance"

In other words, they exhaustively list three different ways Google conveyed the same information. It’s the intellectual equivalent of saying that I was being inconsistent if, when giving directions, I said "hang a right", "take a right turn", and "turn the opposite of left".

That One Guy (profile) says:

PR stunt or boneheaded stupidity?

I almost hope that this is nothing but a cheap PR stunt in order to play the victim, as the alternative, a presidential candidate employing idiot lawyers, making even dumber arguments that have already been shot down before, strikes me as ever so slightly worse.

In either case I can’t help but hope that they are forced to pay Google’s legal fees, as whether it’s an attempt to abuse the legal system for personal gain or just an incredibly stupid lawsuit that should never have been filed they still deserve to be slapped down for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

(not mentioned: EFF has a complaint before the FTC about Google, and receives very, very little money from any corporate donor, including Google)

also not mentioned is the "revolving door" (whether actual or implied) between the EFF and Google. Just ask Fred von Lohmann. It would be funny (but not extraordinary) if the lawyer handling the EFF’s current case against Google quits EFF and gets hired by Google.

Anonymous Coward says:

Google's leaked documents on "Algorithmic Unfairness"

(3) there is no such thing as "net neutrality" for search engines because their whole business is about providing recommendations, which by definition cannot be "neutral". A "neutral" search engine is one that gives you totally random results. A working search engine is one that gives you "biased" results. Biased in support of relevance to whatever you’re looking for.

Not so for Auto-Complete, which is supposed to reflect the actual search terms that are commonly input by other Google users. This can easily be checked by anyone, and using Google’s own data proves this to quite often be false. In reality, Google’s Auto-Complete is what Google wants people to search for, rather than a reflection of what most people actually searched for. Auto-Complete originally started out as being content-neutral, but over the years has strayed farther and farther from its original mission, and has now reached the point of becoming (at least from the viewpoint of a casual user) blatantly biased.

A clue as to why such apparently blatant biases exist can be found in a set of leaked Google documents, in a section called Algorithmic Unfairness:

“algorithmic unfairness” means unjust or prejudicial treatment of people that is related to sensitive characteristics such as race, income, sexual orientation, or gender, through algorithmic systems or algorithmically aided decision-making. …

… imagine that a Google image query for “CEOs” shows predominantly men. Even if it were factually accurate representation of the world, it would be algorithmic unfairness because it would reinforce a stereotype about the role of women in leadership positions.

Although it cannot be quantifiably proven, Google’s search results may be just as non-neutral and apparently doctored as its Auto-Complete results have proven to be. But at least it’s all for a good cause, right?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Lots of assertions, not so much evidence

This can easily be checked by anyone, and using Google’s own data proves this to quite often be false.

[Citation Needed].

In reality, Google’s Auto-Complete is what Google wants people to search for, rather than a reflection of what most people actually searched for

[Citation Needed x2]

Auto-Complete originally started out as being content-neutral, but over the years has strayed farther and farther from its original mission, and has now reached the point of becoming (at least from the viewpoint of a casual user) blatantly biased.

[Citation Needed yet again].

A clue as to why such apparently blatant biases exist can be found in a set of leaked Google documents, in a section called Algorithmic Unfairness:

Tip for the future: Bolding text is not the same as embedding a link in it, unless you didn’t mean to actually provide a link, in which case I have to wonder why you bothered to provide the quote at all as it doesn’t actually support your assertions.

‘Search results can show factual results that tends towards one side(because that is what is true)’ is not even close to ‘The company providing those results is artificially modifying them for their own ends’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: low-information Techdirters

Have you never heard of Google Trends? If you didn’t know, it’s a tool for measuring search term popularity. Try it, use it, compare its results to auto-complete on ‘controversial’ subjects (which should ideally be identical), and then ask yourself why there are so many black holes in Google’s auto-complete. (sorry, but you’ll just have to put on your big boy pants and find the site yourself)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: low-information Techdirters

"ask yourself why there are so many black holes in Google’s auto-complete. (sorry, but you’ll just have to put on your big boy pants and find the site yourself)"

Yeah, yeah I’ve heard this one before. Everybody else has to go off and provide their own data, and with something as changeable and location-centric as Trends if they don’t confirm your conspiracy theory they’re just not doing it right…

You first – provide an example of such a discrepancy, and the rest of us will see if this prove what you’re saying, or if there’s just a bunch of other more likely explanations that you’re choosing to ignore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Lots of assertions, not so much evidence

Google’s search results may be just as non-neutral and apparently doctored as its Auto-Complete results have proven to be

Once more, with feeling: there is no such thing as a "neutral" or "undoctored" search result.

The entire act of returning search results means taking someone’s query, making a subjective determination about what links out of your vast database will best satisfy that query, and "doctoring" up a list of those links to return to them.

Asking for "search" that is neutral and undoctored is like asking for a "sport" with no rules or scoring or victory conditions. It’s an oxymoron.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Lots of assertions, not so much evidence

Yep, and this is the problem with a lot of these dumbasses – they’ve correctly determined that nobody can counter the assertion that Google is "biased" with their search results. They’re just so obsessed with the conspiracy angle, they haven’t realised that it makes as much sense as claiming there’s a conspiracy behind both the phone book and yellow pages being in alphabetical order.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Google's Searches

Not so for Auto-Complete,

Auto-complete was just trying to guess what people wanted to see.

But it isn’t like that anymore. And this actually is documented – unlike your opression fantasies. The movie sued and sued and sued and would’t stop suing until Goggle changed the algorithm to block results they didn’t like. So instead of seeing what you want, you get to see what the copyright holders want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google's leaked documents on "Algorithmic Unfairness"

The thing with Google, is that there are other search engines out there, so give some of the a try, and see how they behave against your idea of neutrality.

Autocomplete is not mandatory, and you can ignore its suggestions if you know what you are looking for.

Naina Singh says:

Wrong Point I believe Made By Tulsi Gabbard

Sueing Google for 50mn dollars seems to be a publicity stunt as google have always maintained transparency regarding its services they provide, I agree with @Anonymous Coward , Autocomplete was just an option and not a necessity for use they were trying to guess what people actually wanted to see.

DNY (profile) says:

One thing Gabbard may have on her side that most others don't:

campaign finance laws.

Gabbard may be able to argue that unequal treatment of her ads vis-a-vis her opponents’ ads functions as an in-kind contribution to her opponents’ campaigns. Rightly or wrongly (I’m inclined to think the latter) we have stronger laws governing the distribution of political speech/writing in the context of campaigns for elective office than in general debate.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the aspect that distinguishes Gabbard from other litigants is, she was a paying customer. There may not be 1st amendment contentions applicable here, but there is breach of contract.

And if the breach was intentional in order to maximize the damage to her campaign, then the sought damages could be reasonable.

Zof (profile) says:

Google Got Caught Lying, Again

They lied about MLfairness. They are on live video admitting they plan to rig the 2020 election, multiple times now. And they literally changed their story about why they unethically attacked the most popular candidate in the country by search results. Google are mental garbage. They think they are going to save the world. They need stopped immediately.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Google Got Caught Lying, Again

"They are on live video admitting they plan to rig the 2020 election"

"Live" video? Or, "suspiciously edited video pushed by people known to selectively edit videos to mislead viewers into agreeing with a specific right-wing agenda?

If the pushers of that video have any relationship to James O’Keefe, I’m afraid you’ve been taken in by an obvious lie and it fits in the second category.

"Google are mental garbage"

Weird. "Mental" and "garbage" are often the words that first spring to mind whenever I read one of your posts.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...