Google to End Controversial Pilot Program on Political Spam Filters

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Aizaz khan By Aizaz khan
4 Min Read

Google plans to end a controversial pilot program that allows political groups to bypass Gmail’s spam filters later this month, as first reported by The Washington Post Tuesday. The program, launched by Google last September, allowed candidates, political party committees, and leadership political action committees to sign up with Google to exempt their messages from the company’s spam detection systems. This move came in response to Republican accusations that the company’s algorithms disproportionately flag conservative fundraising emails as spam.

Throughout the 2022 election cycle, Republican anger over tech censorship was reignited by an academic study that found Google’s email service, Gmail, flagged GOP fundraising emails as spam more often than those from Democratic senders. For officials at the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the study explained why GOP candidates often struggled to fundraise more money than their Democratic opponents last year.

The pilot program was part of Google’s plan to address these Republican fundraising concerns. But the RNC and NRSC argued that the program needed to go further in addressing their issues. Nearly a month after the program’s launch, Verge reporting found that the RNC did not sign up for the program. In October, the RNC sued Google over this alleged bias against Republicans, claiming that the company’s spam filters directly hurt GOP fundraising.

“We will keep investing in spam-filtering technologies that protect people from unwanted messages while still allowing senders to reach the inboxes of users who want to see those messages,” José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, said in a statement to The Verge on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the Federal Elections Commission dismissed a similar Republican-led complaint over Google’s spam filters. In a January FEC letter to Google, the commission “found no reason to believe” that Gmail’s filtering systems amounted to in-kind corporate contributions to Democrats, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Google is now seeking to dismiss the RNC’s October lawsuit, according to Monday night filings first reported by Axios Tuesday. “As the FEC’s recent bipartisan decision confirmed, we don’t filter emails for political purposes and like the FEC complaint, this suit is without merit,” Castañeda said in a statement on Tuesday referring to the RNC lawsuit.

In summary, Google will end a controversial pilot program that allows political groups to bypass Gmail’s spam filters later this month. The program was launched last September in response to Republican accusations that the company’s algorithms disproportionately flag conservative fundraising emails as spam.

However, the RNC and NRSC argued that the program did not go far enough in addressing their issues, and the RNC even sued Google over this alleged bias against Republicans. Google is now seeking to dismiss the RNC’s October lawsuit, stating that the suit is without merit.

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