Twenty-seven Senate Republicans led by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would ban email providers from using algorithms that mark certain political campaign emails as spam.
Fox News Digital noted that introduction of the bill came after Republican senators in May grilled Google leadership about a March North Carolina State University (NC State) study. The study showed that Gmail marked significantly more right-leaning candidates’ emails as spam compared with left-leaning candidates’ emails.
The pending legislation would make it illegal for email services to label political campaign emails as spam unless the recipient proactively reports them as “spam.”
The bill would also require email providers to release quarterly transparency reports that would, among other things, detail the following:
- The total number of “instances” where the provider flagged political campaign emails as spam.
- The number of instances in which the provider marked political campaign emails as spam without the recipient’s instruction.
- The percentage of emails from Republican and Democratic campaigns the provider flagged as spam.
The NC State study found Gmail marked 59.3 percent more emails from right-leaning candidates as spam compared to left-leaning candidates. The same study found that Microsoft Outlook’s email spam algorithm favored Republicans only by a margin of 20 percent and Yahoo’s algorithm by 14 percent.
Political campaigns could request internal information on a rolling basis from email providers about how they applied spam filters to campaign emails, starting three months after the bill’s enactment. Tech companies would then have a four-day period to hand over the information.
The Thune bill would task the Federal Trade Commission with enforcing the requirements related to email providers’ spam-filtering practices and quarterly reports. But companies that earn less than $5 billion yearly and have fewer than 500 employees would be exempt from the requirements.
The Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) filed a joint complaint with the FEC in April, after learning the results of the NC State study.
GOP senators met with Google leadership in May, after which Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said “Google deflected” and didn’t provide meaningful answers to senators’ questions.
“Consumers should be able to choose what they want to see, not Google,” Thune said in a statement. “It’s long past time for Big Tech to be held accountable for its blatant bias, and this bill would be an important step in that direction.”
Republicans supporting the bill include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), GOP Conference Chair John Barrasso (WY), NRSC Chair Rick Scott (FL), GOP Policy Committee Chair Roy Blunt (MO), GOP Conference Chair Joni Ernst (IA), Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (MS), Sen. Josh Hawley (MO) and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL).
Rubio tweeted on May 21 that Gmail had sent 66 percent of his Senate campaign’s emails to registered supporters to their spam folders.
“It’s time to hold Big Tech accountable for its shameless partisan censorship,” Rubio said in a statement. “This bill would empower users to have more control over their email inbox preferences and expose the filtering practices of these large platforms.”
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