In brief: The Republican National Committee has sued Google alleging biased email spam filtering. The RNC claims they have been communicating with Google for 10 months without finding a solution to what the political committee considers to be discriminatory filtering.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) has filed a lawsuit against Google for allegedly engaging in unlawful discrimination by filtering Republican campaign emails to its users' spam folders.
According to the suit filed with California's Eastern District Court on Friday, the RNC accuses the search giant of "throttling its email messages because of the RNC's political affiliation and views." The RNC is particularly concerned about what it considers suspicious patterns in the timing of spam filtering for RNC communications.
According to the RNC, for most of each month, nearly all RNC emails arrive in Gmail inboxes as expected, but then near the end of the month nearly all RNC emails are sent to user's spam folders. The RNC claims this spike in spam filtering is intended to coincide with the time of the month that RNC fundraising has historically been the most successful.
The RNC goes on to claim in the filing that it has been in talks with Google for 10 months about the RNC's findings. The RNC is specifically asking the court to reject any effort by Google to try to hide its actions behind claims of algorithmic neutrality. The RNC suggests the "most reasonable inference is that [the spam filtering] is intentional," but that regardless, Google's inaction on the RNC's complaints should be considered "at least negligent and unreasonable" which would be enough under California common carrier law to be considered discrimination.
Google has denied the RNC's claims in a statement given by Google spokesperson José Castañeda:
As we have repeatedly said, we simply don't filter emails based on political affiliation. Gmail's spam filters reflect users' actions. We provide training and guidelines to campaigns, we recently launched an FEC-approved pilot for political senders, and we continue to work to maximize email deliverability while minimizing unwanted spam.
The FEC-approved pilot referenced in Google's statement was launched in August in response to Republican-raised concerns about bias in spam filtering systems. The Google program would allow any campaign to register to bypass automatic spam filtering ensuring delivery in user inboxes.
The RNC is reportedly not enrolled in this program.