Filed Under: Politics

Republican National Committee sues Google over ‘political bias’ in email spam algorithm

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The Republican National Committee has sued Google over “political bias” on its email platform, Gmail. The party claimed that conservative candidates’ emails are being automatically sorted into Gmail’s spam folders.

“We need to find a way to keep big tech’s thumb off the scale in our elections and our democracy,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “Because they should not be able to suppress emails that we’re sending to people who asked for us to send these emails.”

Google denied the accusations, saying it does not filter emails based on political affiliation. However, it does filter based on users’ actions through “spam filtering algorithms” (SFAs). They are designed to recognize undesired, unsolicited, or suspicious emails, then redirect them into the spam folder.

Apparently, those algorithms can favor one political party’s messages and hide another’s as spam.

A 2020 North Carolina State University study found political biases in Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo’s SFAs. Gmail, specifically, leaned to the left by marking 59.3% more emails from conservative candidates as spam. Google reportedly pushed back, reiterating to Fox News that politics has no bearing on mail classifications in Gmail.

In April, the RNC asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate. The commission approved a Google pilot program called the “Verified Sender Program.” It allows participants to bypass the spam filter – unless the user opts out of receiving future messages.

SHANNON LONGWORTH: TIRED OF ALL THE CAMPAIGN EMAILS THIS ELECTION CYCLE?

WELL, THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE IS TIRED OF WHAT IT CALLS “POLITICAL BIAS” ON EMAIL PLATFORMS.

THE PARTY CLAIMS THAT CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATES’ EMAILS ARE BEING AUTOMATICALLY SORTED INTO GMAIL’S SPAM FOLDERS, PROMPTING THE RNC TO SERVE THE “DO-NO-EVIL” TECH GIANT A MESSAGE OF THEIR OWN: WE’RE SUING YOU.  STRAIGHT TO THE INBOX.

RONNA MCDANIEL: “WE NEED TO FIND A WAY TO KEEP BIG TECH’S THUMB OFF THE SCALE IN OUR ELECTIONS AND OUR DEMOCRACY. BECAUSE THEY SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO SUPPRESS EMAILS THAT WE’RE SENDING TO PEOPLE WHO ASKED FOR US TO SEND THESE EMAILS.”

LONGWORTH: GOOGLE DENIES THE ACCUSATIONS, SAYING IT DOES NOT FILTER EMAILS BASED ON POLITICAL AFFILIATION. BUT IT DOES FILTER BASED ON USERS’ ACTIONS.

IT DOES SO THROUGH “SPAM FILTERING ALGORITHMS” OR SFAS.

THEY’RE DESIGNED TO RECOGNIZE UNDESIRED, UNSOLICITED, OR SUSPICIOUS EMAILS,

THEN REDIRECT THEM INTO THE SPAM FOLDER.

AND, APPARENTLY, THOSE ALGORITHMS CAN FAVOR ONE POLITICAL PARTY’S MESSAGES, AND HIDE ANOTHER’S AS SPAM.

A 2020 NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY STUDY FOUND POLITICAL BIASES IN GMAIL, OUTLOOK AND YAHOO’S SFAS.

GMAIL, SPECIFICALLY, LEANED TO THE LEFT BY MARKING 59.3% MORE EMAILS FROM CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATES AS SPAM.

GOOGLE REPORTEDLY PUSHED BACK, REITERATING TO FOX NEWS THAT POLITICS HAS NO BEARING ON MAIL CLASSIFICATIONS IN GMAIL.

WHETHER THE BIASED MAIL SORTING IS INTENTIONAL OR A RESULT OF A POORLY PROGRAMMED ALGORITHM IS UNCLEAR.

BUT BACK IN APRIL, THE RNC ASKED THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE.

THE COMMISSION APPROVED A GOOGLE PILOT PROGRAM CALLED THE “VERIFIED SENDER PROGRAM.” IT ALLOWS PARTICIPANTS TO BYPASS THE SPAM FILTER–UNLESS THE USER OPTS OUT OF RECEIVING FUTURE MESSAGES.

THE RNC HAS NOT CHOSEN TO PARTICIPATE.

AND NOT EVERY USER IS HAPPY WITH THAT SOLUTION.

THE FEC PUBLISHED PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE PROGRAM BEFORE APPROVING IT.

ONE SAYS, “NO ENTITY SENDING OUT MASS EMAILS SHOULD GET THROUGH MY SPAM FILTER UNLESS I ACTIVELY MARK THEM AS “NOT SPAM.” AND “I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S PATOOTIE IF THE RNC THINKS THEY’RE BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST.”

ANOTHER SAYS “I DO NOT WANT MY MAILBOX INUNDATED WITH THIS TYPE OF EMAIL.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS IT OK FOR AN EMAIL PROVIDER’S CODE TO FAVOR ONE POLITICAL PARTY OVER ANOTHER? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS.

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The Republican National Committee has sued Google over “political bias” on its email platform, Gmail. The party claimed that conservative candidates’ emails are being automatically sorted into Gmail’s spam folders.

“We need to find a way to keep big tech’s thumb off the scale in our elections and our democracy,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “Because they should not be able to suppress emails that we’re sending to people who asked for us to send these emails.”

Google denied the accusations, saying it does not filter emails based on political affiliation. However, it does filter based on users’ actions through “spam filtering algorithms” (SFAs). They are designed to recognize undesired, unsolicited, or suspicious emails, then redirect them into the spam folder.

Apparently, those algorithms can favor one political party’s messages and hide another’s as spam.

A 2020 North Carolina State University study found political biases in Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo’s SFAs. Gmail, specifically, leaned to the left by marking 59.3% more emails from conservative candidates as spam. Google reportedly pushed back, reiterating to Fox News that politics has no bearing on mail classifications in Gmail.

In April, the RNC asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate. The commission approved a Google pilot program called the “Verified Sender Program.” It allows participants to bypass the spam filter – unless the user opts out of receiving future messages.

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