Senate Republicans target Google with bill to stop Gmail from allegedly spamming political GOP emails

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Sen. John Thune and more than 20 other Senate Republicans introduce bill to ban email providers from using algorithms to sift through emails sent by federal political campaigns, as they attack Google for political bias presumed.

Bill Thune, RS.D., is a reaction to a North Carolina State University study that found Gmail sends a much higher percentage of Republican candidate emails to spam. than the Democrats. He has the support of the entire GOP leadership team, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and 19 other Republican senators.

Called the Political BIAS Emails Act, the bill would prohibit email services from applying filtering algorithms to messages from federal political campaigns. Email services like Google would also be required to provide information to campaigns directly upon request and produce quarterly reports on GOP and Democrat emails sent to spam.

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“Nearly 70% of [Republican] political communication has been spammed,” Thune said in an interview with Fox News Digital, referring to the North Carolina State Study’s analysis of Gmail’s practices. “They did a similar analysis of Democratic emails and found that only 8% were sent to spam. So clearly there was an algorithm being used that was manipulating what people were… seeing.”

Google denies that it filters emails in a way intended to harm or injure any specific party.

“We do not screen emails based on political affiliation, and we are working to increase transparency data for bulk senders, including campaigns, in our suite of sender tools,” a Google spokesperson told Fox News. “We look forward to working with lawmakers and campaigns to ensure Gmail gives users the best experience.”

Thune, who has worked on technology legislation in different areas before, said Senate Republicans had invited Google representatives to a meeting with their caucus members to discuss the North Carolina state findings. But that conversation didn’t go well, he said.

Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, speaks during a press conference following the Senate Republican Policy Luncheons at the United States Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Eric Lee/ Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, speaks during a press conference following the Senate Republican Policy Luncheons at the United States Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Eric Lee/ Bloomberg via Getty Images)
(Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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“We asked people to come up and defend it, and they said, well, you know, it doesn’t match our data or whatever. But they didn’t really offer an alternative,” said Senate Minority Whip.

“What happened was that our members got more and more agitated the more they talked about it,” Thune continued, “because they didn’t have a good explanation of why. which a consumer shouldn’t have the ability to decide whether or not, you know, a company sends information based on a spam filtering algorithm.”

Other members of the GOP leadership team supporting the bill are Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Republican National Senate Committee Chairman Rick Scott, R-Fla.; GOP Political Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; and GOP Conference Vice President Joni Ernst. R-Iowa.

The Google logo is displayed at Google headquarters on September 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California.

The Google logo is displayed at Google headquarters on September 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California.
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The grassroots members behind the bill are Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Mike Brown. Rind.; Kevin Cramer, RN.D. ; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb. ; Josh Hawley, R-Mo. ; James Lankford, R-Okla.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan. ; Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va. ; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Tim Scott, RS.C. ; Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama; and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Thune told Fox News on Friday that companies are wrong in deciding which messages email users should be able to see in their primary inboxes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joins a bill targeting Google for alleged political discrimination in its email filtering practices.  AP Photo/J.  Scott Apple White

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joins a bill targeting Google for alleged political discrimination in its email filtering practices. AP Photo/J. Scott Apple White
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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“Google or other technology platforms shouldn’t tell a consumer what they can and cannot receive when it comes to political communications,” he said. “And to me, that’s just anti-democratic and anti-free market for that matter.”

“Evidence suggests that some players in the tech industry display an undeniable pattern of ideological bias against conservatives,” McConnell said in a statement.

It’s unclear what the path to passage of the bill might be, as Democrats control both the House and the Senate. But with Republicans aiming to retake both the House and Senate in November, the bill could signal that targeting big tech will be on the agenda if they do.

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