FEC Throws Out Republicans' Complaint Over Gmail Spam Filter

The Federal Election Commission has rejected a complaint by Republican groups that alleged Google's spam filter disproportionately rejected GOP fundraising emails during the 2020 election cycle.

In an opinion quietly issued last week, the commission said Google “credibly asserts that its spam filter is applied on a politically neutral basis and for a commercial purpose.”

The decision stems from a complaint brought in April by the Republican National Committee and other organizations that alleged Google's anti-spam efforts amounted to an illegal contribution to Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

The Republican groups alleged that Google classified their emails as spam far more frequently than Democratic fundraising emails. The political organizations filed suit soon after researchers at North Carolina State University reported that Gmail flags around 68% of emails from Republicans as spam, compared to 10% of emails from left-wing candidates.



The FEC said that even if the North Carolina study was accurate, the disproportionate impact of Google's spam filter on Republican and Democratic candidates wouldn't prove that the company intended to influence the election.

“The available information indicates that Google’s spam filter is in place for commercial, rather than electoral, purposes,” the commission wrote.

“Even presuming that the [North Carolina study] is both sufficiently rigorous and well-designed to establish that the spam filter has a disparate impact on Republican and Democratic candidate emails, the fact that a service or action benefits a candidate is not dispositive of whether a contribution results, so long as the purpose for that service or action is a bona fide commercial reason rather than for the purpose of influencing a federal election,” the commission added.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda said the decision “reaffirms that Gmail does not filter emails for political purposes.”

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