According to fresh papers obtained by The Verge, Google has a new strategy to prevent campaign emails from being flagged as spam in response to months of pressure from Republicans.
According to Google’s proposal, which was originally revealed by Axios, candidates, political party committees, and leadership political action committees would be able to apply for an unique “pilot program” under which their emails would not be flagged as spam by Gmail. The request for clearance was made in a filing on June 21 to the Federal Elections Commission.
The business submitted the request to the FEC, according to a statement from Google spokesperson José Castaeda on Tuesday. As a way to “help improve inboxing rates for political bulk senders and provide more transparency into email deliverability, while still letting users protect their inboxes by unsubscribing or labeling emails as spam,” he said, the program offers users the chance to “help improve inboxing rates for political bulk senders.”
While Gmail’s algorithmic spam detection would not apply to permitted campaigns under the test program, consumers would still be prompted to continue receiving the emails after they initially arrived in their inbox.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) was the first Republican to claim in 2020 that GOP campaign emails were being incorrectly classified as spam more often than Democrats’ emails. During a prominent tech executive hearing that year, Steube informed Google CEO Sundar Pichai that “my parents, who have a Gmail account, aren’t getting my campaign emails.”
After a North Carolina State University research revealed that Gmail was more likely to classify Republican communications as spam when compared to other email providers like Outlook, the problem was brought up once more this past March. Google said in response to the report that Gmail users were more likely to classify the Republican mails as spam on their own.
Particularly Trump’s campaign has been under fire for allegedly utilizing spam-like techniques in its fundraising emails, such as using deceptive subject lines that appear to be from friends or relatives. Several emails have utilized subject lines that appear to be an email bounceback notification, such as “automated email fwd.”
Nevertheless, the report inspired Republican politicians to submit legislation that would forbid Google and other email providers from classifying campaign emails as spam, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Shortly before Google last week submitted its program proposal to the FEC, that law was presented.
In a tweet on Monday, McCarthy wrote, “Fascinating timing.” “Within hours, Google finally moved to change their prejudiced email filtering algorithms. Big Tech has demonstrated that it behaves badly. It’s time to respond.”
Democrats claim that Google changed its strategy to placate Republicans even as Republican politicians and strategists are applauding its new strategy.
Republicans should have stopped sending spam emails, Daniel Wessel, the DNC deputy communications director, said in a statement to The Verge on Tuesday. “It’s awful that instead of doing so, they participated in a bad-faith pressure campaign — and it’s even more unfortunate that Google bought it.”
The January 6th Select Committee of Congress’ congressional investigators charged former president Donald Trump of defrauding his base of $250 million by using fundraising emails earlier this month. Trump’s campaign flooded people with emails in the weeks before the Capitol riots encouraging them to contribute to his official “Election Defense Fund” in order to assist Trump rig the 2020 election. The House investigators found no evidence of that money.
“This morning, the Democrats criticized Google for tackling the problem of political email inboxing. Politics shouldn’t have a role in this. In a tweet on Tuesday, GOP digital strategy company president John Hall stated that we should all want to be treated equally. “If the Democrats are opposed to that notion, it shows they are aware of receiving special treatment.”