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Republicans lose Google election conspiracy case

by on28 August 2023

It turns out the spam filter is not biased

A court has told the US Republican National Committee (RNC) to sling its hook over a conspiracy theory that Google’s spam filter was politically biased.

The RNC had sued Google demanding it pay for all the lost campaign revenue it should have got if its spam email had gone through.

For those on this side of the pond, US political parties spam the bejesus out of people to raise campaign funds to get their people into politics. For some reason the Republicans have not been able to attract so much cash this year, and with the state of US politics that is cannot be the RNC’s fault, it must be down to a Google conspiracy.

Now, a federal judge has dismissed that lawsuit, noting that Google was effectively protected by Section 230 of US law, and that the RNC had not "sufficiently pled that Google acted in bad faith" by filtering out campaign emails.

As evidence, the RNC cited a study finding that Gmail was more likely than Yahoo and other mail systems to mark Republican emails as spam.  However, the study's authors told the Washington Post last year that its findings were cherry-picked.

US District Court Judge Daniel Calabretta said the RNC had "failed to plausibly allege its claims" that Google's spam filtering was done in bad faith. Google said the emails in question were likely flagged as spam because of user complaints and cited RNC domain authentication issues and frequent mailouts as other potential issues.

The court also decided that RNC emails could be deemed "objectionable" based on the CAN-SPAM Act, and the fact that Google flagged them as such was covered by Section 230, which provides immunity to online platforms from civil liability based on third-party content.

During last year's mid-term US elections, Google created a loophole allowing political campaigns to dodge Gmail spam filters, however, the RNC didn't take advantage of it.

Google has since ended the experiment because it faced negative feedback from the public who don’t want spam of any political flavour in their inbox.

Last modified on 28 August 2023
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