After months of pressure from Republicans, Google has a new plan to prevent campaign emails from being flagged as spam, according to new documents obtained by The edge†
Google’s plan, first reported by axios, would allow candidates, political party committees and political action committees of executives to apply for a special “pilot program” that would exempt their messages from Gmail’s spam detection systems. The idea was presented to the Federal Elections Commission in a June 21 filing seeking approval from the agency.
Google spokesman José Castañeda confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that the company has made the request to the FEC. He described the program as an opportunity to “help improve inbox rates for political bulk senders and provide greater transparency into email deliverability while still allowing users to protect their inboxes by unsubscribing or labeling emails as spam.” tagging.”
While the pilot program would save authorized campaigns from Gmail’s algorithmic spam detection, users would receive another notification asking if they would like to continue receiving the emails once they first landed in their inboxes.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) was the first Republican to suggest that emails from GOP campaigns were falsely marked as spam in 2020, disproportionately to Democrats. “My parents, who have a Gmail account, are not getting my campaign emails,” Steube told Google CEO Sundar Pichai during a high-profile tech executive hearing that year.
The issue was raised again last March a North Carolina State University study found that Gmail previously marked Republican emails as spam compared to other email services, such as Outlook. In response to the survey, Google argued that Gmail users were flagging the Republican messages as spam himself.
Trump’s campaign in particular has been accused of using spam-like tactics in his fundraising emails, such as using misleading subject lines that read like messages from friends or family. Several emails have used subject lines such as “automatic email forwarding”, which is similar to an email bounceback notification.
Still, the investigation led Republican lawmakers such as House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to pass legislation that would prohibit Google and other email services from filtering campaign emails as spam. That bill was introduced shortly before Google sent its program proposal to the FEC last week.
“Fascinating timing”, McCarthy said in a Monday tweet† “Within hours, Google has finally taken a step to change biased algorithms that filter political emails. Big Tech has proven itself to be a bad actor. Time to fight back.”
As Republican lawmakers and strategists praise Google’s new plan, Democrats suggest the company has taken the step to appease Republicans.
“It’s sad that instead of simply stopping sending spam emails, Republicans were campaigning under pressure in bad faith — and it’s even more unfortunate that Google bought it,” said Daniel Wessel, deputy deputy manager. DNC communications director, in a statement to The edge on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, congressional investigators on the Jan. 6 Select Committee accused former President Donald Trump of defrauding his $250 million base through his use of fundraising emails† In the weeks leading up to the Capitol riots, Trump’s campaign sent a torrent of emails asking voters to donate to his official “Election Defense Fund” to help Trump undo the 2020 election. According to the house researchers, that fund never existed.
“The Democrats criticize Google this morning for tackling the political email inbox problem. This should not be a partisan issue. We should all want equal treatment,” Josh Hall, president of Targeted Victory, a GOP digital strategy firm, said in a Tuesday tweet† “If the Democrats are critical of that idea, it means they know they’re getting preferential treatment.”