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RNC threatens to sue Google for sending its emails to people’s spam folders

‘It is voter suppression by Big Tech, and we have to find a way to hold them accountable,’ RNC chair says

Johanna Chisholm
Thursday 06 October 2022 16:01 BST
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GOP plans to sue Google over their emails allegedly going into spam folders

The Republican National Committee has threatened to sue Google over claims its emails are landing in Gmail users’ spam folder.

“For the past ten months, the last four days of every month, all of our emails go undeliverable, 0 per cent deliverability. This is outrageous,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday morning. “It is voter suppression by Big Tech, and we have to find a way to hold them accountable.”

Ms Daniel said the committee should have an announcement “soon” about their plans to sue the tech titan.

“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,” she added.

According to the RNC’s figures, between the days of 28 September and 30 September, the Silicon Valley titan has had emails from the committee sent to the spam folders of individuals’ inboxes who had opted in to emails from the Republican organisation.

For their part, Google has pushed back against the RNC chairwoman’s characterisation of their email server and has said that “politics or political affiliation play no role” in determining how communications are filtered.

“We enable political committees and other organizations to reach their constituents, donors, and key audiences via email. When Gmail users say that they don’t want to receive an email, we place the email in the spam folder, politics or political affiliation plays no role in this determination,” José Castañeda, a spokesperson for Google, said in an emailed statement to The Independent.

"We recently launched a Federal Election Commission approved pilot program with a small number of campaigns to study whether these changes improve the user experience during this election period. We will continue to listen and respond to feedback as the pilot progresses,” he added.

Ms McDaniel has been raising this concern with the tech giant for months, writing in June that she had spotted the trend of email engagement dropping at the end of each month – typically when the committee is doing callouts for “important donation days”.

“Big Tech’s bias is out of control. Every single month – for 7 months in a row – Google has systematically attacked the RNC’s email fundraising during important donation days at the end of the month. Our emails go from strong inbox delivery (90-100%) down to 0%,” tweeted Ms McDaniel in June.

More recently, when Ms McDaniel said online that she’d noticed the trend for the 10th month in a row when email engagement began dropping at the end of September, she lashed out once more.

“This not only affects fundraising but get-out-the-vote efforts as well. We’re 40 days out from Election Day, we do not have transparency from Google, and we NEED a resolution immediately,” she tweeted on 29 September.

Though no paperwork has yet to be filed, Ms McDaniel is hardly the first US politician to take Google to court for overstepping what they perceive as an apolitical line.

In 2019, US presidential Democratic candidate Tusli Gabbard claimed that the tech company was infringing on her free speech after it temporarily suspended her campaign’s advertising account after a debate ahead of the 2020 election.

Similar to Ms McDaniel, Ms Gabbard alleged in the lawsuit – believed to be the first time a presidential candidate has sued a major technology firm – that emails from her campaign were being sent to the spam folders at a “disproportionately high rate” when compared to other Democratic candidates, the New York Times reported at the time.

For their part, Google responded to Ms Gabbard’s lawsuit back in 2019 by stating that the company relies on an automated system that flags unusual activity on advertiser accounts to prevent fraud.

“In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter,” said Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for Google, to the Times. “We are proud to offer ad products that help campaigns connect directly with voters, and we do so without bias toward any party or political ideology.”

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