Political ads campaigns: Candidates vs Big Tech


Observing the tendency, one can easily notice that tech giant companies have faced fervent critique over manipulations of social opinion, political bias, privacy leaks, disinformation, and informational distortion. Numerous lawsuits have been and are being filled, and their number escalates during election races. Candidates and politicians make people pay attention to antitrust law violations and scale breaches, realizing the power of digital ads and information feed, together with the scale of problems they can deliver. The very first significant initiative in regulation digital ads has popped up as an outcome of the 2016 election campaign and was called The Honest Ads Act. The Act considered one of its main tasks, aside from making reasonable efforts to minimize foreign countries' interference, to require political campaigns to obey the same standards of advertising on large social media platforms as ones they do on TV and radio. In turn, the platform which put on-air ads had to be obliged to manage open for public databases, noting the ads' efficiency stats.


Despite the fact that legislators provide many concepts for regulating tech companies and introduce new bills almost daily, the fight is not getting easier. Realizing the power tech giants obtain in terms of democracy, politicians seem to be more and more alarmed with it.


This week's court loss by Tulsi Gabbard is eloquent by itself, pulling up the controversy of the digital system environment. Ms. Gabbard, the representative from Hawaii, with her campaign Tulsi Now, had filed a lawsuit against Google in July 2019 and asked for $50 million in losses from Google for “serious and continuing violations of Tulsi’s First Amendment rights to free speech.” The tech company briefly suspended her campaign's ad account following the first presidential debate without explanation, making it challenging for people to find information about the candidate. "It is vital to our democracy that big tech companies can’t affect the outcome of elections," said Gabbard in her Twitter. However, on Wednesday, March 4th, California’s Central District Court dismissed the suit, motivating that is a privately owned company, Google is not fitted to violating the free speech guaranteed by the first amendment. Google, in its turn, explained that the platform automatically triggered a suspension of Gabbard’s account for unusual activity, but this error was shortly corrected.


Gabbard joins a growing number of politicians taking on tech companies over similar issues, and they don't seem to give up.


Even President Trump, whose activity and ad campaign in social media paved his way to the White House in 2016, in September 2019, hit the “immense power” of social media giants in his address to the United Nations. Joe Biden, in his interview with the Associated Press, in May 2019 said that "dismantling large technology companies including Facebook is “something we should take a really hard look at.”


The campaign told Reuters that, as president, Biden would aggressively use “all the tools available - including utilizing antitrust measures” to ensure corporations act responsibly. Bernie Sanders, according to Reuters, "has also called for the break-up of big tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon. His administration would “absolutely” try to split apart the companies, Sanders said at a Washington Post event in July."


Though tensions between Silicon Valley and Washington seem to be high, experts presume that major US regulations and decisions on this matter can be postponed by politics, which will be clear pretty shortly.


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