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Google stops spam backdoor for political campaigns

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Google launched the program last September in response to Republican allegations that the company’s algorithms are disproportionately flagging conservative fundraising emails as spam. The program allowed candidates, political party committees, and political action committees of leaders to sign up with Google to have their posts exempt from the company’s spam detection systems.

“We will continue to invest 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 edge on Tuesday.

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

The pilot program was part of Google’s plan to address these Republican fundraising problems. But the RNC and NRSC argued that the program did not go far enough in addressing their issues. Almost a month after the launch of the program, Forget Reporting showed that the RNC had not signed up for the program. In October, the RNC sued Google about this alleged bias against Republicans, claiming that the company’s spam filters directly harm GOP fundraising.

“Enough is enough — we are suing Google for their blatant bias against Republicans,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement announcing the lawsuit last October. “We are determined to end this clear pattern of bias.”

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

“As the FEC’s recent bipartisan decision affirmed, we do not filter emails for political purposes and like the FEC’s complaint, this lawsuit is baseless,” Castañeda said in a statement Tuesday, referring to the RNC lawsuit.

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