Gmail users could start seeing more campaign fundraising emails hitting their inboxes over the next couple days as Google starts rolling out a new political filtering system.
Google told Axios on Monday that it was launching a controversial new pilot program to keep campaign emails out of spam folders this week. The program was announced back in June and allows candidates, political party committees, and leadership political action committees to apply for spam folder exemptions.
In August, the Federal Election Commission narrowly voted to approve the program after Google asked for the agency to sign off on it earlier this year.
The move comes after months of criticism from Republicans who fear Google disproportionately flags GOP emails as spam when compared to their Democratic counterparts. Earlier this year, a North Carolina State University study suggested that Republicans’ accusations were true, creating a political firestorm amongst conservatives who believe that Silicon Valley tech companies are wrongfully biased against them. The outcry led Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to introduce legislation banning biased email filtering.
“We expect to begin the pilot with a small number of campaigns from both parties and will test whether these changes improve the user experience, and provide more certainty for senders during this election period,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda told Axios on Monday.
Google’s program could be a boon for Republicans whose political fundraising war chests have plummeted in the runup to the November midterms. In July, The Washington Post reported that Democrats were greatly outpacing Republicans in small-dollar donations that are primarily made online. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised a record $181 million by the end of July but had spent more than 95 percent of that haul going into August, months before the general elections, according to The New York Times last month.
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