Bias in your inbox? Republicans accuse Google of sending their campaign emails to spam

Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 12:00 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - It’s not every day that people check their spam folders - but it could be the destination for dozens of campaign emails intended for your inbox.

A North Carolina State University study found that Google has been sending 68 percent of Republican campaign emails to spam - while just 8 percent of Democratic ones met the same fate.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is introducing a bill called the “Political BIAS Email Act” that would ban big tech from filtering campaign emails

“Google should not be using a filtering algorithm to send a spam communications that are sent by political candidates,” said Thune, “Be they Republican or Democrat.”

Cyber security expert Matthew Curtin explains that algorithms take data and sort it in a way that might be useful to the user. It sifts through emails, eliminating things users might not want, and prioritizes things that might be of interest based off users habits. He believes Google’s sorting might not be malicious in nature - it might come down to the wording in those emails.

“It’s possible that the people who are writing the content are using words that are more readily associated with things that actually are spam,” said Curtin.

As an example, he explains that emails that ask for money are usually flagged as suspicious - and that many campaign emails do just that. The algorithm picks up on it.

“And as a consequence, it starts to train the filters to start looking for those messages,” said Curtin, “And then automatically send them to the spam folders of people who might want to have them.”

Republicans aren’t the only victims - the study ( found that Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo servers sent more Democratic emails to spam than Republican. While there are currently only Republicans co-signing the bill - Thune hopes Democrats will be convinced as well.

“I’m hoping they’ll be some Democrat support,” said Thune, “If you’re someone who is trying to reign in the influence of social media platforms and other tech platforms, then you ought to be for this because it does create transparency - and puts the power back in the hands of the consumer instead of the tech company”

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai met with lawmakers on June 22nd. Following that meeting, he vowed that Google would be more transparent with their data on spam filtering, and their interactions with political campaigns.

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