what you need to know
- The FEC approved Google’s request to allow political campaign emails to bypass Gmail’s spam filters.
- Google previously asked the commission to approve the political filtering program after receiving backlash from Republicans.
- Users remain in control of the political campaign emails they receive and can forward them to the spam folder if they wish.
Google is now allowing political campaign emails to bypass Gmail’s spam filters, whether or not they contain spam-like language, after approving a pilot program spurred by criticism from Republicans.
The US Federal Elections Commission has given the green light to Google’s request not to flag as spam political emails sent by authorized candidate committees, political party committees and political leadership action committees.
The search giant sent its request to the commission in June with the aim of confirming whether the program would constitute some kind of contribution to political campaigns, according to Axios (opens in new tab). Private companies like Google are prohibited under the federal election campaign law from making donations to federal candidates.
However, since Gmail is a free service, the FEC considers the program to be “consistent with Google’s usual business practices”. According to the Commission, Google’s pilot program does not violate any laws.
Political candidates and party committees must apply for the program to have their campaigns exempt from Gmail’s spam detection systems. Google has come under fire for being accused of disproportionately filtering Republican campaign emails sent through Gmail.
The email contains notifications asking users if they would like to continue receiving these types of emails. This means they are in control of how they receive political campaigns and have those messages forwarded to their spam folders.
“If a user does not unsubscribe from a specific sender in the first message or any subsequent message, the user will continue to receive messages from that sender,” the FEC said in a memo (opens in new tab). “Furthermore, Gmail users could always express their preferences and influence future delivery by marking a sender’s message as either spam or not spam.”
Political emails must also include a one-click unsubscribe button so that users can easily unsubscribe from receiving such messages.
In a statement to Android Central, a company representative said that Google “will consider the positive and negative feedback received during the public comment period.”
“Our goal during this pilot program is to explore alternative ways to address bulk mailer concerns, while giving users clear control over their inboxes to minimize unwanted email,” the spokesperson added.