Political campaigns

FEC says Google can let political campaigns dodge Gmail spam filters

The Federal Election Commission has approved a proposal that could make it easier for political campaigns to bypass spam filters. Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve a Gmail pilot, agreeing with Google that the program would not violate election rules because reports.

In June, Google would allow emails from “Authorized Candidate Committees, Political Party Committees, and Executive Political Action Committees registered with the FEC” to bypass spam filters – as long as they don’t don’t violate Gmail’s policies on illegal content, malware, and phishing. The FEC has opened the proposal for comment and, as ratings, almost all public comments. The Democratic National Committee, for its part, claimed the program would benefit Republicans and subject Gmail users to “abusive fundraising tactics.”

At the FEC, Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub expressed concerns that the program was only available to political committees. “To me, that sets off all kinds of alarm bells, because it sounds like the classic definition of an in-kind contribution,” she said.

Currently, campaign emails often skip Gmail’s inbox precisely because many other users mark them as spam. If Google decides to go ahead with the project, it will notify users the first time they receive an email from a participating campaign. They will be able to refuse to receive these emails and will always have the option of manually marking them as spam.

Google launched the pilot program following pressure from Republicans, who accused the company of censoring fundraising emails. A study published earlier this year found that Gmail was much more likely to flag GOP emails as spam during the 2020 election campaign (Yahoo and Outlook, meanwhile, disproportionately flagged Democratic emails as spam) . Additionally, Republicans saw campaign contributions from small donors to their party drop more than 12% between the first and second quarters of the year. GOP leaders introduced a bill in June that seeks to ban messaging platforms from automatically routing campaign messages to spam folders.

“Our goal during this pilot program is to evaluate other ways to address bulk sender concerns, while giving users clear controls over their inboxes to minimize unwanted email,” said said Google spokesman José Castañeda. Jobnoting that the company “will continue to monitor feedback as the pilot rolls out to ensure it meets its objectives.