Google plans to discontinue a pilot program that allows political campaigns to evade its email spam filters, the latest round in the technology giant’s tussle with the GOP over online fundraising. The Washington Post reports: The company will let the program sunset at the end of January instead of prolonging it, Google’s lawyers said in a filing on Monday. The filing, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, asked the court to dismiss a complaint lodged by the Republican National Committee accusing Google of “throttling its email messages because of the RNC’s political affiliation and views.” “The RNC is wrong,” Google argued in its motion. “Gmail’s spam filtering policies apply equally to emails from all senders, whether they are politically affiliated or not.” […]
While rejecting the GOP’s attacks, Google nonetheless bowed to them. The company asked the Federal Election Commission to greenlight the pilot program, available to all campaigns and political committees registered with the federal regulator. The company anticipated at the time that a trial run would last through January 2023. Thousands of public comments implored the FEC to advise against the program, which consumer advocates and other individuals said would overwhelm Gmail users with spam. Anne P. Mitchell, a lawyer and founder of an email certification service called Get to the Inbox, wrote that Google was “opening up the floodgates to their users’ inboxes … to assuage partisan disgruntlement.”
The FEC gave its approval in August, with one Democrat joining the commission’s three Republicans to clear the way for the initiative. Ultimately, more than 100 committees of both parties signed up for the program, said Google spokesman Jose Castaneda. The RNC was not one of them, as Google emphasized in its motion to dismiss in the federal case in California. “Ironically, the RNC could have participated in a pilot program leading up to the 2022 midterm elections that would have allowed its emails to avoid otherwise-applicable forms of spam detection,” the filing stated. “Many other politically-affiliated entities chose to participate in that program, which was approved by the FEC. The RNC chose not to do so. Instead, it now seeks to blame Google based on a theory of political bias that is both illogical and contrary to the facts alleged in its own Complaint.” […] “Indeed, effective spam filtering is a key feature of Gmail, and one of the main reasons why Gmail is so popular,” the filing stated.