Republican complaint against Gmail’s spam filter rejected by FEC



The Federal Election Commission has rejected a complaint by Republican campaign groups that Gmail’s spam filters disproportionately flag GOP fundraising emails that constitute prohibited in-kind contributions to Democrats.

“Available information indicates that Google’s spam filter was used for commercial, not electoral, purposes,” the federal regulator wrote in a factual and legal analysis approved by at least four of the six equally divided FEC members.

Google’s spam technology sparked controversy last year as GOP groups blamed the technology for a drop in fundraising. They cited a study published by computer scientists at North Carolina State University that found that Gmail sent 77% of emails from right-wing candidates to spam, compared to 10% of emails from left-wing candidates. Google has argued that the study was flawed and that other factors, such as the frequency of emails and how users respond to them, inform how its automated filters work.

In May, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested an analogy at a meeting between Google’s top lawyer and Republican lawmakers. According to three people in the room, who asked not to be named so the 88-year-old could share details of the meeting on camera, Google’s spam emails suggest the post office is refusing to deliver mail.

“If you send a letter, you wait for it to be delivered,” one person recalled a “red-faced” Grassley saying. “This is how it should be!”

Representative Jim Banks, a Trump ally, has announced his candidacy for the US Senate in Indiana

The criticism was prompted by a drop in GOP fundraising — which fell nearly 11% in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter, according to federal WinRed filings. the leading donation processing portal for Republicans.

Rebuffing GOP criticism, Google bowed to federal campaigns by introducing a pilot program that would allow them to exempt emails from spam detection. A Google spokesperson declined to say how many campaigns have signed up for the program.

But spokesman Jose Castañeda welcomed the FEC’s decision.

“The Commission’s unanimous decision to dismiss this complaint confirms that Gmail does not filter email for political purposes,” he said. “We continue to invest in industry-leading Gmail spam filters because, as the FEC has noted, they are critical to protecting people’s inboxes from receiving unwanted, unsolicited or dangerous messages.”


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