Judge dismisses Republican lawsuit against Google over Gmail’s spam filtering

Judge dismisses Republican lawsuit against Google over Gmail’s spam filtering


The RNC sought compensation for donor money that it says it lost as a result of Gmail’s filters, but the judge ruled in Google’s favor.


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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A federal judge in California’s eastern district has dismissed the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) lawsuit against Google over the company’s alleged “discriminatory” spam filtering, according to The Washington Post.

The suit complained Google intentionally sent RNC political emails to Gmail users’ spam folders, and the RNC sought restitution for “donations it allegedly lost as a result” of those lost emails. The RNC cited a North Carolina State University study that found Gmail was more likely to mark emails from Republican campaigns as spam. One of the study’s authors spoke to the Post in May last year, saying its findings had been misrepresented. Muhammad Shahzad noted that it only tested default email settings — in tests on accounts where users indicated their preferences by marking some messages as spam, “the biases in Gmail almost disappeared.”

While US District Court Judge Daniel Calabretta described the RNC’s suit as a “close case,” he dismissed the Committee’s claims, writing that it had “failed to plausibly allege its claims” that Google’s filtering was done in bad faith. Google claimed that many of the filtered emails were likely picked up by its spam algorithms because of user complaints and pointed to problems with the RNC’s domain authentication and frequent emails as other culprits.

The judge also said Republican emails could be considered “objectionable” content based on the definition in the CAN-SPAM Act and said that Google designating them spam is protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The decision left Republicans with partial “leave to amend to establish a lack of good faith” on Google’s part.

Last year, Google built a backdoor for political emailers that the RNC reportedly didn’t bother using. The company said in January it would shutter its backdoor program in January as it requested dismissal of the RNC lawsuit. Earlier that month, the Federal Elections Commission rejected Republicans’ complaint to it about Google’s email filtering practices.

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