In a recent ruling, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from the Republican National Committee (RNC) against tech giant Google, centered on allegations of political bias linked to Gmail’s spam filters. According to a report by The Washington Post, the judge determined that Section 230 of US law protected Google, and emphasized that the RNC hadn’t adequately demonstrated Google’s purported bad faith in filtering campaign emails.
The RNC had claimed that Google purposefully flagged “millions” of their emails as spam, which, they argued, resulted in lost donations. To support this accusation, they presented a study that purportedly showed Gmail more frequently tagged Republican emails as spam compared to platforms like Yahoo. However, critiques arose when one of the study’s contributors pointed out that its results had been selectively highlighted.
Although US District Court Judge Daniel Calabretta described the lawsuit as a “narrow margin,” he stated that the RNC hadn’t convincingly argued its claims of Google’s malicious intent in spam filtering. Google countered the allegations by suggesting that the flagged emails were probably marked as spam due to complaints from users. The tech company also pointed to potential issues with RNC’s domain authentication and high email distribution frequency.
Further strengthening Google’s defense, the court observed that the CAN-SPAM Act could deem RNC emails as “objectionable,” and marking them as such was in line with Section 230. This legislation grants online platforms immunity against civil liabilities rooted in third-party content. However, the judge left the door open for the Republicans to refine their lawsuit, implying they might need to better substantiate Google’s purported lack of good faith.
In a twist during the preceding year’s mid-term US elections, Google had initiated a temporary feature permitting political campaigns to bypass Gmail spam filters. This measure, though available, was reportedly not utilized by the RNC. Due to widespread negative reception, Google has since terminated this initiative.