Home Artificial Intelligence RNC lawsuit against Google over ‘censorship’ of Gmail spam filter tossed

RNC lawsuit against Google over ‘censorship’ of Gmail spam filter tossed

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A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a Republican National Committee lawsuit alleging that Google’s email spam filters illegally suppressed their missives, dealing the campaign group a crushing blow in a lengthy battle that has riled conservative lawmakers in Washington.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Calabretta wrote that while it was a “close case,” the RNC had not “sufficiently pled that Google acted in bad faith” by filtering their messages into spam filters in its popular Gmail service. Calabretta further ruled that Section 230, the embattled law that largely shields digital services from lawsuits over third-party content they host or moderate, protected Google from the claim.

In 2022, Republicans seized on an academic study finding that Google’s filtering algorithms demonstrated a bias against conservative candidates, reigniting claims that the tech giant’s technology tips the electoral scales toward liberals by targeting voices on the right. Tech companies have long disputed the allegations.

The study also found that rival email services Outlook and Yahoo demonstrated a less pronounced political bias against liberals, and its authors told The Washington Post that GOP leaders had taken their findings out of context.

Republican officials publicly and privately blasted Google over the findings, arguing that it could hurt their efforts to fundraise over email and the party’s election chances overall.

In a bid to assuage the criticisms, Google developed a pilot program to allow candidates’ emails to bypass their spam filters, earning a greenlight for the initiative from federal regulators.

But in October, the political committee filed a lawsuit against Google accusing the tech giant of “discriminating” by “throttling its email messages” over its political views. In January, Google discontinued the program as it continued to fight the RNC’s lawsuit in court.

“The RNC is wrong,” Google wrote in a motion at the time. “Gmail’s spam filtering policies apply equally to emails from all senders, whether they are politically affiliated or not.”

The judge granted the RNC a chance to amend the lawsuit in part to establish a claim that the company had acted with a “lack of good faith.”

The FEC dismissed a separate complaint brought by Republican campaign groups against Google over the allegations earlier this year.

Spokespeople for Google and the RNC did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday.

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