Is Google Censoring Republican Campaign Emails?

Political News

When you donate to campaigns, you’re often put on an email list. As is a common practice, email lists get sold, and you end up on the list of a campaign you didn’t donate to but you might potentially support.

Over the years, my various email addresses have ended up on many lists. Heck, last year, I found myself on Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner’s campaign email list, though I most certainly didn’t donate to his campaign or sign up for his emails.

But a lot of campaign emails I never even notice. It’s not because I get so many emails that they get lost, though that does happen. The reason is that more often than not, those emails never make it to my inbox because they’ve been flagged as spam. I try to check my spam folder regularly, but I definitely don’t do it as often as I should. Nevertheless, over the years, I’ve noticed that Google often flags campaign emails as spam, even ones I legitimately signed up for.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has noticed that Google seems to be sending most Republican campaign emails to spam lately and is accusing the tech giant of censorship. According to Rubio, up to 90% of campaign emails to supporters with registered Gmail addresses never make it to their inboxes.

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“Marco Rubio for Senate is in @Google purgatory. Since a Pelosi puppet announced she was running against me, they have sent 66% of my emails to REGISTERED SUPPORTERS with @gmail to spam,” Rubio tweeted on Saturday. “And during the final weeks of finance quarters, it climbs to over 90%.”

Last month, the Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) filed a joint complaint with the Federal Election Commission to investigate bias in Gmail’s algorithm. The complaint cited a study by researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) that found that Gmail’s algorithm “makes it much harder for Republicans to reach their supporters” compared to Democrats, which hampers their fundraising efforts.

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The study found that roughly 10% of left-wing candidate emails were flagged as spam, compared to nearly 80% of right-wing candidate emails that Google flagged as spam. In addition to that, the percentage of right-wing emails flagged by Gmail increased the closer it got to an election date, while the share of emails from left-wing candidates flagged as spam remained the same.

“This is a financially devastating example of Silicon Valley tech companies unfairly shaping the political playing field to benefit their preferred far-left candidates,” NRSC Chairman Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer said in a joint statement.

Despite this apparent bias, the researchers say there is no evidence to suggest this is deliberate censorship. Instead, it could be that the spam filtering algorithms have learned to mark emails from right-wing candidates more frequently.

“Mail classifications in Gmail automatically adjust to match Gmail users’ preferences and actions,” a Google spokesperson claimed in response to the NCSU study, but that seems like a cop-out response.

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