Republican committees have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission after researchers at the North Carolina State University’s Department of Computer Science found that Google’s Gmail marked emails from Republican candidates as spam at an astronomically higher rate than Democrat candidates.
The findings were published in a study titled "A Peek into the Political Biases in Email Spam Filtering Algorithms During US Election 2020." The study looked at three email service providers, Google, Outlook, and Yahoo.
It found that while all service providers displayed some disparity in marking Republican candidate emails as spam, Google did such at a shockingly higher rate than its two competitors.
"The study’s findings are shocking. All three services displayed some disparity, with Outlook marking Democrat emails as spam approximately 27 percent more than Republican emails, and Yahoo marking Democrat emails as spam approximately 14 percent more. In comparison, however, Google’s Gmail truly stands apart, as it marked Republican emails as spam at more than an 820 percent higher rate than it marked emails from Democrat candidates," the FEC complaint explained.
The complaint, filed by the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, noted that Google’s disparity in marking these emails as spam increased as the 2020 Election Day approached.
"The study also finds that Gmail continued to mark Republican emails as spam even after users opened and read similar messages. This means that Gmail effectively blocked users from receiving messages from Republican candidates, even after those users took actions indicating that they wanted to receive them," the complaint said.
The complaint parties said that there would be two explanations for this high disparity: one being that Google’s spam filtering algorithms are "significantly worse than those of its major competitors, or Google is putting its thumb on the scale to benefit one party’s candidates over another in violation of federal law."
They wrote that Google’s spam filtering diverted an untold amount of emails from Republican candidates, forcing these candidates to miss out on fundraising money.
"Accordingly, the Commission should find reason to believe that Google has made illegal, corporate in-kind contributions to the Biden campaign and Democrat candidates across the country by its overwhelmingly – and indefensibly – disproportionate suppression of Republican candidate emails," the complaint states. "The Commission further should conduct an investigation into Google’s activities to determine the value of its in-kind contributions and the full extent to which Google has violated, and presumably continues to violate, federal campaign finance law through its partisan email suppression."
In response to the study’s findings, a Google spokesperson said, "Political affiliation has absolutely no bearing on mail classifications in Gmail and we’ve debunked this suggestion, which has surfaced periodically from across the political spectrum, for many years. Mail classifications in Gmail automatically adjust to match Gmail users’ preferences and actions. Gmail users can move messages to spam, or to any other category. Gmail automatically adjusts the classifications of particular emails according to these user actions."
Speaking with Newsmax, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said the results were "horrifying to see."
"These researchers in North Carolina, nonpartisan researchers, said that with the Republican Party and campaign emails 70 percent of them, went to spam," McDaniel said. "For Democrats, less than 10 percent went to spam, so we've done some number calculation over since 2019 that would cost Republican candidates in the over $2 billion in donations, not to mention all the get-out-the-vote and other things that are important with these emails."
"It is Big Tech putting their thumb on the scale once again against Republicans and for Democrats," said McDaniel.
"If 70 percent of your emails are going to your spam folder, that means those voters aren't seeing it," she said. "If less than 10 percent of Democrat emails are going to the spam folder, it's giving them an inherent advantage on top of other things like making sure to register to vote to pick up your absentee ballot."
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