Home Technology Republicans sue Google for filtering campaign emails as spam

Republicans sue Google for filtering campaign emails as spam

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In brief: The Republican National Committee has sued Google for biased spam filtering of email. The RNC claims they have been communicating with Google for 10 months without finding a solution to what the political committee deems discriminatory filtering.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has filed a lawsuit against Google for alleged wrongful discrimination by filtering Republican campaign emails to its users’ spam folders.

According to the lawsuit filed Friday in California’s Eastern District Court, the RNC accuses the search giant of “limiting its email messages because of the RNC’s political affiliations and views.” The RNC is particularly concerned about what it considers to be suspicious patterns in the timing of spam filtering for RNC communications.

According to the RNC, almost all RNC emails arrive in the Gmail inbox as expected for most of each month, but by the end of the month, nearly all RNC emails are sent to the user’s spam folders. The RNC claims that this spike in spam filtering is meant to coincide with the time of month when RNC fundraising has historically been most successful.

The RNC further claims in the filing that it has been in talks with Google for 10 months about the RNC’s findings. The RNC is specifically asking the court to dismiss any attempt by Google to hide its actions behind claims of algorithmic neutrality. The RNC suggests that the “most reasonable inference is that” [the spam filtering] intentional,” but that, in any event, Google’s inaction on the RNC’s complaints should be considered “at least negligent and unreasonable,” which would be enough to be considered discrimination under California common carrier law.

Google has denied the RNC’s claims in a statement from Google spokesman José Castañeda:

As we’ve said repeatedly, we simply don’t filter emails based on political affiliation. Gmail’s spam filters reflect users’ actions. We provide campaign training and guidance, we recently launched an FEC-approved political sender pilot, and we continue to work to maximize email deliverability and minimize unwanted spam.

The FEC-approved pilot referenced in Google’s statement was launched in August in response to concerns expressed by Republicans about bias in spam filtering systems. The Google program would allow any campaign to register to bypass automatic spam filtering and ensure delivery to users’ inboxes.

The RNC is reportedly not enrolled in this program.


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