February 13, 2023
Google owes an explanation for its spam filtering algorithm (SFA), which appears to be horribly biased against Republicans. This algorithm may have played a significant role in affecting contributions to political parties in the 2020 election. Republicans deserve equal treatment by email services, as this communication technology is nearly ubiquitous and should be non-partisan. Google must be held accountable for the bias in their SFA that skews so heavily in favor of Democrats, especially when that bias could shift the outcome of a presidential election.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) recently dismissed a complaint from the Republican National Committee (RNC) filed last April alleging unfair treatment of their fundraising emails by Google’s email service, Gmail. The FEC says it “found no reason to believe” that Google treated the RNC any differently than any other political group and that any differential treatment was unintentional.
However, the numbers suggest a completely different story. In the complaint, the RNC included findings from a study conducted by computer science researchers from North Carolina State University. These researchers set out to determine if any SFAs of three top email service providers had a bias for particular political emails. For Outlook and Yahoo, the discrepancies were reasonable, even showing a “bias” in favor of Republicans. Outlook sent 95.8% of left-leaning campaign emails to the spam folders of the researchers’ test email accounts. 75.4% of right-leaning campaign emails were similarly filtered by Outlook. Yahoo’s SFA resulted in a difference of 14.2% in favor of right-leaning emails.
Gmail on the other hand stands out like a sore thumb. 67.6% of emails from right-wing campaigns were sent to the spam folder, while only 8.2% of left-wing campaigns were given the same treatment. Republican fundraising emails were hidden from recipients at an 820% higher rate when compared to their left-leaning counterparts. Not only that, but the filtering rate increased for Republican-sourced emails as the election moved closer. This rate increase over time was suspiciously missing from Democrat-sourced emails. Both surprising findings are clearly highlighted in the RNC complaint.
These SFAs have a tremendous effect on fundraising efforts. The RNC claims this treatment has cost over two billion dollars in lost donations since 2019 and has hurt its get-out-the-vote campaigns. Whoever controls these SFAs would have immense power over political contributions to different political parties. It is no secret that Big Tech corporations like Google have a clear bias toward Democrats. With control of over 50% of email accounts in the U.S., Google’s influence over elections cannot be ignored.
The Twitter Files have revealed massive collusion between Democrats in government and Twitter under prior ownership. Similar exposés have shown that other Big Tech corporations, such as Facebook, are overtly working with Democrats in power to manipulate online discourse. With such a significant influence over email communication and a monopoly on internet search, Google would be a prime target for despots looking to control information flow. An investigation into this matter is paramount, as it is improbable that a benevolent billionaire, such as Elon Musk, will buy Google and expose any wrongdoing.
If truly an accident, Google would have to believe that a whopping 91.8% of Democrat campaign emails were “wanted” but only 32.4% of those sent by Republicans were wanted. More likely, Google genuinely finds Republicans and their emails to be “dangerous.” Prominent Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claim that Republicans engage in “stochastic terrorism.” If ideologically aligned people make up Google’s workforce, a company whose employees give overwhelmingly to Democrats, it would make sense for Gmail to treat emails from Republicans as “dangerous.”
If there was no accident and Google did intentionally censor Republicans, it would most certainly have played a role in the 2020 election due to its email service market share and the SFA tilting heavily in favor of Democrats. Despite the FEC’s foolish dismissal of the RNC complaint, House Republicans must continue investigating Google over this issue to find out the truth. Email is one of the backbones of internet communication, and U.S. citizens deserve equal use, no matter what Big Tech may think about their politics.
Caleb Larson is a cybersecurity researcher, policy analyst with the Internet Accountability Project, a Heritage Foundation alum, and contributor at Human Events where he writes about cybersecurity-related issues facing the United States.
Unlike the Big Tech monopolies, the Internet Accountability Project pledges to never sell or share your personal information, which is your property.