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Republican Commission Sues Google Over Email Spam Filters

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Republican National Committee has filed a lawsuit against tech giant Google, claiming the company suppressed its email requests ahead of the November midterm elections — a claim Google denies.

The lawsuit, filed Friday night in California’s Eastern District Court, accuses Gmail of “discriminating” against the RNC by unfairly sending the group’s emails to users’ spam folders, impacting on both fundraising and voting efforts. in crucial swing states.

“Enough is enough — we’re suing Google for their blatant bias toward Republicans,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to The Associated Press. “For ten months in a row, Google has been sending critical Republican GOTV and month-end fundraising emails to spam without any explanation. We are determined to end this clear pattern of bias.”

Google denied the allegations in a statement. “As we’ve said repeatedly, we just don’t filter emails based on political affiliation. Gmail’s spam filters mirror users’ actions,” said spokesperson José Castañeda, adding that the company provides training and campaign guidelines and is working to “maximize email delivery and minimize unwanted spam.”

The lawsuit focuses on how Google’s Gmail, the world’s largest email service with approximately 1.5 billion users, screens requests and other material to prevent users from being flooded with junk email. To try to filter out material that account holders may not want in their inboxes, Google and other major email providers create programs that flag communications that are likely to be considered unwelcome and move them to spam folders that are typically rarely, if ever, viewed by recipients.

The lawsuit says Google has “redirected millions of RNC emails en masse to the spam folders of potential donors and supporters during pivotal points in election fundraising and community building” — especially at the end of each month, when political groups tend to send more messages. to send. “It doesn’t matter if the email is about donating, voting or community outreach. And it doesn’t matter if the emails are sent to people who have requested them,” it reads.

Google claims its algorithms are neutral, but a study released in March of North Carolina State University found that Gmail was much more likely to block messages from conservative causes. The survey, based on emails sent during the US presidential campaign in 2020, estimated that Gmail put about 10% of email from “left-wing” candidates in spam folders, while 77% of “right-wing” candidates were classified as spam. .

Gmail rivals Yahoo and Microsoft’s Outlook were more likely to favor pitches from conservative targets than Gmail, the study found.

The RNC confiscated that study in April to appeal to the Federal Election Commission to investigate Google’s “censorship” of its fundraising efforts, which it claimed was an in-kind contribution to Democratic candidates and served as “a financially devastating example of Silicon Valley tech companies unfairly shaping the political playing field in favor of their favorite far-left candidates.”

Since then, the committee has approved a pilot program that creates a way for political committees to bypass spam filters so that their fundraising emails find their way into recipients’ primary inboxes. Gmail is participating in the “ Verified Sender Program, ” which allows senders to bypass traditional spam filters, but also allows users to unsubscribe from a sender. If the unsubscribe button is pressed, a sender is supposed to remove that Gmail address from their distribution lists.

On Friday evening, the RNC had not yet registered to participate in the pilot.

Republicans who have tried to question the results of the 2020 election without making the most extreme and baseless claims about corrupt voting machines and stolen votes have often tried to blame major tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook for their perceived bias towards former President Donald Trump. A long list of state and local election officials, courts and members of Trump’s own administration have said there is no evidence of the massive fraud Trump is alleging.

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