Republican politicians knocked Google’s newly approved email plan, suggesting it doesn’t go far enough to ensure GOP fundraising emails reach Gmail users’ inboxes.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Aug. 11 approved a proposed pilot by Google to address GOP concerns that too few Republican political fundraising emails were reaching Gmail users’ inboxes. The approval follows a March North Carolina State University study that exposed how Gmail marked 67.6 percent of right-leaning candidates’ emails as spam and just 8.2 percent of left-leaning candidates’ emails as spam.
In addition to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Republican Sens. Steve Daines (MT) and John Thune (SD) expressed doubt that Google will shore up its documented left-leaning spam filter bias, even after the FEC approved Google’s pilot proposal.
“While it’s good to see the FEC has cleared the way for Google to increase transparency, this pilot program won’t fix the underlying issue of Republican emails getting caught in spam or not delivered at all,” Daines said in a statement to MRC Free Speech America. “I’ll keep pushing for Google to establish parity between both sides to ensure all Americans can connect and engage in political discourse.”
The pilot will last through January, and Thune’s office signaled discontent with the temporary nature of the program.
“While Sen. Thune is glad Google has acknowledged this issue, he believes it’s an inadequate response to a large and serious problem,” Thune spokesperson Ryan Wrasse wrote in an email. “More needs to be done. Consumers want a long-term, transparent fix, which is what his bill would provide.”
Thune led 26 other GOP senators in June in introducing a bill to ban email providers from automatically marking certain political campaign emails as spam. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) introduced companion House legislation days later.
The bills, which remain pending in committees, would require Gmail to release quarterly reports noting how many times the provider flagged respective GOP and Democratic Party campaign emails as spam.
NRCC took issue with the proposed pilot, saying it allows Google to further “put its finger on the scale” of elections.
“We are calling for Google and all other email providers to protect political speech by delivering 100% of opted-in political emails to recipients without blocking and filtration,” an NRCC spokesperson wrote in an email.
A Google spokesperson said that his company’s goal during this pilot program is to assess “alternative ways” of addressing concerns from bulk senders, while giving users “clear controls” to minimize unwanted email.
As approved, the pilot would ask Gmail users whether they wanted to receive emails covered by the pilot in their inboxes, giving them the option to opt out anytime after opting in.
“We will continue to monitor feedback as the pilot rolls out to ensure it is meeting its goals,” the Google spokesperson said.
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