back to article Google gets the green light to flood US Gmail inboxes with political spam

The US Federal Election Commission on Thursday voted 4-1 to allow Google to create a program exempting qualified political email from Gmail spam filtering, despite emphatic objections from email users. The ad giant floated its proposal [PDF] after Republicans claimed Gmail's spam filtering is biased against them, and the party …

  1. VoiceOfTruth

    Forward it on the FCC

    What is good enough to be shoved down the throats of people who don't want it, is good enough to be shoved down the throats who think it is acceptable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forward it on the FCC

      What is good enough to be shoved down the throats of people ... Chocolate

      Chocolate's better than politics!

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

        Re: Forward it on the FCC

        As long as it's actual chocolate.

        With politics involved, I assume there is lying everywhere and the "chocolate" is really ssssssshhhhhhaving cream. (You know the song. Insert poop emoji here.)

        1. skeptical i

          Re: Forward it on the FCC

          Whatcha' doin'?

          Eatin' chocolate.

          Where'd you get it?

          Doggie dropped it.

          I believe this was posted by another commentard a while back, I can not take credit.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Forward it on the FCC

          "With politics involved, I assume there is lying everywhere and the "chocolate" is really ssssssshhhhhhaving cream. (You know the song. Insert poop emoji here.)"

          Be nice and clean

          Shave everyday and you'll always look keen.

          OH man, I can't believe I still remember that song.

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Forward it on the FCC

      Can we not setup rules so any of those types of mail come in automatically get forwarded to the FCC.

      Flag them all as spam. Enough people that do is supposed to affect gmail filters. Whether it actually does is anyone's guess. There was never an option to see the filters in gsuite when I used to manage it.

    3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: Forward it on the FCC

      That would almost make me want to get a google account.

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: Forward it on the FCC

        Wicked!

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Forward it on the FCC

        "That would almost make me want to get a google account."

        Really? It makes me think about deleting the account I never use anyway.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: Forward it on the FCC

          MachDiamond, missed the obvious sarcasm then?

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Forward it on the FCC

        Just forward it to every TLA and let them sort out who has jurisdiction. Maybe it will cause Gmail to be banned at those agencies due to all of the Spam they wind up getting from every direction.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Forward it on the FCC

      You have your acronyms mixed up. The people who said this was acceptable are the FEC, not the FCC. The FCC doesn't get to regulate what people write in emails, blocked or not. The FEC doesn't really either, but they have to decide if Google's action is in aid of a specific candidate. If they disagreed, Google could do it anyway but might get fined if they cared enough. If you want to forward on the spam, it's the FEC you want. The FCC would just be confused.

      1. rnturn

        Re: Forward it on the FCC

        > If you want to forward on the spam, it's the FEC you want. The FCC would just be confused.

        Well, the FCC covers communications (including the Internet) so forwarding it to them might have an affect. If nothing else it might cause them to contact the FEC and asking "What the hell were you thinking?"

      2. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: Forward it on the FCC

        -> You have your acronyms mixed up

        Thank you for the correction.

    5. binary
      Thumb Up

      Re: Forward it on the FCC

      Excellent idea, however, many of us need the link where the FCC can accept such forwards.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    You get what you pay for

    Google Mail is free, so you live at Google's whim.

    I remember when Google was insisting people use "real names" and demanding birth certificates, driver's licenses, and other private info if you wanted to keep your email.

    Get a real email service where you're actually the customer, and you don't have to deal with this.

    I can also see Google allowing other spam through for a large enough payment.

    On the other hand, it'll make it easier to figure out who to vote against.

    The funny thing is I've noticed my paper spam has become a lot less since the US postal rates went up.

    1. usbac

      Re: You get what you pay for

      I have a personal rule. I will not vote for any candidate that robocalls or SPAMs me. It has worked out great. I don't have to waste time standing in line to vote anymore!

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: You get what you pay for

        When I answer the phone and it is a political call, "Ock canni elp oo? Surry icona un destad ya" and they just hang up.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: You get what you pay for

          "When I answer the phone and it is a political call, "Ock canni elp oo? Surry icona un destad ya" and they just hang up."

          I use the opportunity to practice the Russian I learned in college. It wound up never helping me pick up cute girls, but maybe it will scare off political calls.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: You get what you pay for

      I had a call at my US house from a political party. They ignored my pleas that I can’t vote in any election over there. Then when I hung up they rather infuriatingly called back. So I asked if as a local taxpayer (property etc.) they were going to allow me to vote if they got in? That had the desired effect.

      In the UK if somebody comes to the door canvassing for a political party I ask difficult questions they won’t know the answer to.. The last one I asked was what is your candidate’s position on tartrazine in foodstuffs? The look on their face was an amazing picture of bemusement and terror.

      I’d never give my email address to a political party of any description. I use my own domain name for email. I give companies a unique address and if I get an unsolicited email to that address I know who it’s come from .

      1. rnturn

        Re: You get what you pay for

        > I’d never give my email address to a political party of any description. I use my own domain name for email. I give companies a unique address and if I get an unsolicited email to that address I know who it’s come from .

        Gotta try giving politicians phony usernames as part of my email address. Postfix will simply drop their spam on the floor. I've tried going the unsubscribe route but it not 100% effective. (I could register a complaint somewhere about that but that takes time I'd rather use for something else.)

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: You get what you pay for

        "I give companies a unique address and if I get an unsolicited email to that address I know who it’s come from ."

        This is why it's great to have your own domains. You can make up and delete email addresses at will.

    3. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: You get what you pay for

      "Google gets the green light to make more millions courtesy of the government by flooding US Gmail inboxes with political spam"

  3. Scene it all

    I have moved most of my important email off Google to Proton for reasons like this. Also I use Thunderbird, which has its own spam filters independent from Google's. I would delete the gmail account entirely if I was not afraid I would lose my YouTube and other Google-based accounts too.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      If you move all the non-spam email to another provider you can just ignore all the email sent to the Google account. Just leave it in the inbox to fester. That's what I do with a Google address that exists for other reasons then to use for actual email.

    2. Martin J Hooper

      I deleted my Gmail account - The account name got reverted to the email from my web hosting and Youtube and Maps still works fine without one, so go for it... :)

    3. schultzter

      Google account != Gmail

      They don't make it obvious but you can create a Google account for all their other services without having a Gmail account.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "I would delete the gmail account entirely if I was not afraid I would lose my YouTube and other Google-based accounts too.

      They won't risk losing you and having a slightly harder time tracking everything you do online.

  4. Youngone Silver badge

    ...despite emphatic objections from email users.

    Oh ha ha! As if anybody involved in the US government gives a flying whatsit about what the voters think.

    Its not like the voters can change anything.

  5. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
    Trollface

    How to feel about this

    On the one hand, hate political spam. Send me a flyer through the post office, if it looks interesting I'll read it but email spam is already loathed, and you don't want a pissed off person whose vote you want to get reading your message.

    On the other hand, I am really looking forward to the backlash against gmail when the prime bullshit hits the fan. A lot of corps use gmail as their corp provider, and are nationwide, so I'm hoping these corp emails wind up so that everyone at the corp recieves politispam from every jurisdiction an employee is at. TONS and TONS of it.

    I know I shouldn't applaud spam, particuarly the spoiled political sort, but since it'll be Googlers dealing with it..icon, cause there's no popcorn.

    1. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: How to feel about this

      "A lot of corps use gmail as their corp provider" As do many SMEs. This should be a sh show.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: How to feel about this

        "A lot of corps use gmail as their corp provider"

        This amazes me after so many instances of Google being caught reading the mail and any number of security breaches.

    2. rnturn

      Re: How to feel about this

      > Send me a flyer through the post office, if it looks interesting I'll read it but email spam is already loathed, and you don't want a pissed off person whose vote you want to get reading your message.

      Physical flyers cost money to print and send, even at the reduced rates they might receive. I'm positive that's why they pushed to be able to abuse Gmail.

      > On the other hand, I am really looking forward to the backlash against gmail when the prime bullshit hits the fan.

      Republican politicians will likely not care about the backlash and would surely complain mightily if their ability to get in voters faces/email accounts is disrupted in any way.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: How to feel about this

        "Physical flyers cost money to print and send, even at the reduced rates they might receive. I'm positive that's why they pushed to be able to abuse Gmail."

        In the US, some political mail is allowed to go free. I don't think campaign mail is allowed a free ride, but it's amazing how many politicians in office become keen to contact all of their constituents to give them an update about what's being done in their name. No overt campaigning though.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: How to feel about this

      "Send me a flyer through the post office, if it looks interesting I'll read it"

      The thing that gets me mad is during the run up to elections, the post offices remove the trash cans in the lobby which means I can't just dribble all of the mailed spam into the bin and not take it home with me. A lesson I learned from a great mentor was to immediately throw away any post that I had no immediate use for. Don't take it inside or put it down anywhere before doing a quick delete. I also learned to get a PO Box and never have anything sent to the house... nothing, ever. It takes a couple of moves to break the links and you have to update your mailing address manually with people and companies you do need to get mail from. Never file a forwarding address.

  6. Auntie Dix Bronze badge
    Terminator

    Gulag, Fecesbook, Micro$haft et al. Are Sociopaths

    "Google is doing this in direct response to disingenuous Republican claims that the company is biased, in a blatant attempt to ward off legislation regulating their service."

    Like too many current Republican lawmakers, Big Tech smiles at you, just like a sociopath fresh from his victims' beheadings.

  7. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    What's the catch?

    Google always had excellent inbound filters and zero outbound filters. It's an anti-competitive behavior that the Feds never caught on to. When Google says they're going to allow floods of inbound spam, I smell fresh evil. It might be a feature that lets users keep score on annoying politicians and political parties. It might be teaching AI what is and isn't successful deceit. It might be training AI how to more effectively manipulate politics.

    Put them all together and Google can use perfectly legal campaign contributions rather than filtering. For the party you don't like? $20 million worth of e-mail advertising donated to their most annoying candidate. The candidate you like best? A donation of $5 million worth of e-mail advertising plus $15 million worth of social engineering and targeting. Each side received $20M so it's fair. Oh, and there's a big tax write-off too.

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  11. pamam

    Spam

    All spam should be labelled as spam and should be filtered by every email provider by law. People waste tons of time every day that could be used to improve society. That's what I would do if I was God. If spam i not labelled as spam but it is found to be spam a fine of $1 will be charged to the sender.

    1. schultzter

      Re: Spam

      One person's spam is another person's valuable information or delightful entertainment. Unless it's malicious criminal deception it's really up to each user what they want to filter.

  12. Bobo

    Bias?

    Strangely myopic and biased article.. "flood your email with"? really? Google allowed ALL Democrat fund-raising email, and all democrat Political nonprofit email through ALL filters even if expressly blocked .. infact went further and flagged them as priority email and made them by-pass User custom email filters.. soooo uhhh WTF are you jabbering about?

    Conversely they sent over 80% of all Republican party, conservative nonprofit email (even subscribed mailing list) email directly to SPAM or to the Bin, ignoring whitelist, and custom priority... this DURING the national election

    FURTHER they tampered with elected officials email accounts during the election. but only Conservative some email taking days to deliver, or fail to deliver

    so actually Google interfered in the election more than Russia ever did.

    Further on both Twitter and on Facebook i found myself "subscribed" to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sander campaigns... and had to unsubscribe and block them repeatedly every few days to stop being flooded with drivel only to find myself once again "subscribed" and friend-ed and accounts i had actually friended and followed... Missing and silent. this is black-hat and criminal social engineering

    so...

    what if Google blocked ALL labor or Green email? tampered with email accounts added 5 million "friends" to the Tories every few days

    is that interfering? is it ok? even as a private business it is treasonous election interference

    so.. maybe put down your woke-cult kool-aid and stop pushing propaganda if you really want to be EU.. then move the F there! Go live in paris!

    1. genghis_uk
      Stop

      Re: Bias?

      If you are going to get heated about this at least read the bloody report...

      "We further observe that Gmail marks a significantly higher percentage (67.6%) of emails from the right as spam compared to the emails from left (just 8.2%). Outlook is unfriendly to all campaign emails, more unfriendly to the left than to the right. It marks a higher percentage of left (95.8%) emails as spam than

      those of right (75.4%). Yahoo marks 14.2% more left emails as spam than the right emails"

      But have you considered the idea that the company generating GOP emails may be tripping spam filters due to the way they are written? The filters don't know where these came from but they will trigger on certain elements in the email - write less spammy emails and they will not be marked as spam

      Also, it was found that if a person shows an interest in the political emails, Google's algorithm very quickly adapted so there was minimal bias:

      "Moving All Spam Emails to Inbox. When a user moves emails from spam to inbox, the spam percentage should decrease because the user is showing interest that such emails should appear in the inbox. The response of Gmail to the S→I interaction follows this intuition while that of Outlook and Yahoo does not. The negative values for both the left and right emails for Gmail show that Gmail starts putting a higher percentage of emails from both sides in inbox after just the first S→I interaction. Fig. 7 shows that after the five S→I interactions, on average, Gmail marks just 5.34% of the right emails as spam (compared to 67.6% in the baseline experiment)"

      Incidentally, when the same move of email from spam to inbox occurred in Outlook and Yahoo, the bias towards the Right actually increased slightly.

      "To summarize, due to the S→I interaction, the political bias in Gmail reduced significantly. However, unexpectedly, it increased in both Outlook and Yahoo because neither of the two services reacted noticeably to user’s desire to not mark the emails as spam that the two services were marking as spam"

      Republicans are cherry picking the results and shouting loudly about bias without admitting that

      1) Some form of bias is probably just a by-product of generic spam filters and the way the emails are formatted

      2) Outlook and Yahoo are biassed towards Republicans

      3) With very minor tweaks, republican voters can all but remove any bias in the spam filters

      I can't speak to Twitter and Facebook as I don't use either and have little interest but this is largely another GOP attempt to play the victim card with little evidence

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bias?

        "Gmail marks a significantly higher percentage (67.6%) of emails from the right as spam compared to the emails from left (just 8.2%)."

        Maybe... I could be out on a limb here but maybe... it could be all the mention of lizard people running the shadow government and the constant reference to fake news while drooling over Faux news... maybe just maybe the algorithm is correct in it's assessments... maybe...

    2. In Like Flynt

      Re: Bias?

      As the British might say, bollocks. I have a throwaway account that I use for online signups that I've had since about the second or third day that Gmail existed. I have yet to receive *one* single Democrat email, yet I get dozens of Republican fundraising crap every week in it (was well over a hundred a week early in the Mango Mussolini's fraud fundraising attempts shortly after the 2020 election). I do not support the Republicans, have *never* signed up for anything Republican related. So if emails for their attempts at raising money for fraudulent purposes go directly into the Spam folder, I have zero issues with that whatsoever. Do the Democrats send out fundraising emails? Almost certainly. I've yet to see one though. But if I do, and Google doesn't do it, I'll immediately flag it as spam too.

      If I want political information from a particular party, I'll ask them for it. If they (Republican, Democrat, or others) try to dump or force their garbage on me, and Republicans *are* the obvious biggest frauds/offenders/liars, I'll deal with it as *I* see fit. If Google happens to help me with that, great. I'd prefer they just delete it to save me the step, but that would mean trusting Google completely. And I *don't* trust that.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Bias?

        "I have yet to receive *one* single Democrat email, yet I get dozens of Republican fundraising crap every week"

        You got on a list. Nothing to do with one political party or another being a bigger spammer. If you've ever registered to vote and affiliated yourself with a particular party, that will do it too. Good luck getting off of those lists.

    3. _Elvi_

      Re: Bias?

      .. I smell the rant of one who has been the victim of party specific Brain Washing ..

      The well renown American "Free speech" argument, echoing the empty stalls of reality whilst the match for truth rumbles on outside on the pitch of truth..

  13. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I mean google will no doubt use it to fling more ads at you anyway since they know which emails you read, delete without opening, or mark as spam, that more juicy data to sell you more relevant ads.

  14. katrinab Silver badge
    Flame

    My Gmail gets flooded with Republican spam, and I've never even visited the USA.

    As for my political views, I consider the Democrats to be mostly far-right extremists with some centre-right politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the Republicans to be even worse than that.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pester me?

    Lose my vote.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking as someone who maintains an ISP spam filter...

    They're not clear in the article whether this is random email splattered out to any email address the senders can get their filthy fingers on, or messages sent to a list of people who have specifically requested mail.

    For a filter system in general, the former are spam no matter who is sending them. The latter are not spam and must be allowed through.

    HOWEVER.... The ultimate authority on what mail should and should not be allowed through to any given specific recipient is in fact that individual recipient. Any mail filtering system MUST include a method for the recipient to declare any arbitrary message spam or not spam, irrespective of the more global filter's results.

  17. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Should NOT be allowed to vote!

    Anyone who makes a voting decision based upon spam received in their free email account is not qualified to intelligently cast their vote.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Should NOT be allowed to vote!

      Current 'Murican voter qualifications do not include "intelligence". Who would set the bar, and what prevents corruption? Do we even have an unbiased scientific definition for "intelligence" that would pass muster?

      Some would argue that it is a benefit of the system that no one is excluded based on (lack of) mental/memory capacity.

      I know many people who are of below-average intelligence. They still lead fulfilling, purposeful lives, are subject to politics/government/law, and retain their right to vote, and rightly so.

      If you disagree with me, I must be "dumb" and shouldn't vote. See how easy it is to game that system?

      It is a true slippery slope that leads past noocracy (that's "wisdom", not "intelligence", but it's the closest -ocracy I could find) down to autocracy -- since not everyone will agree on a single standard for wisdom/intelligence, eventually it is narrowed to the already-ruling few.

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Filter on intelligence?

        IIRC, some years back a court in the U.S. ruled that candidates (for a job on the police force) who scored too high on "intelligence" (yeah, I know) could be rejected on that basis. In effect "Not that one. They're too smart of be a cop".

        I assume that a plausibly accurate test of ethics could be used to disqualify political candidates. As if this hasn't already been implemented.

    2. cmdrklarg

      Re: Should NOT be allowed to vote!

      Nonsense! I will absolutely make my voting decision based upon the election spam sent to me. The ones who send that crap to me will NOT get my vote!

      1. Bill Gray

        Re: Should NOT be allowed to vote!

        Unfortunately, I would expect that some spamming politicians either have caught on to this or will do so. If I were a spammer for party/candidate/cause A, I'd craft obnoxious spam (pardon the redundancy) that appeared to come from party/candidate/cause B.

  18. ITS Retired

    Almost every Republican political ad I've seen have been attack ads,

    with little to no basis in reality. Nothing about actually correcting the problems. If a rival candidate does have working ideas for solutions, they are swamped with attack ads and become also rans.

    What we need is 'Truth in Advertising' with teeth, in political ads. The current Republicans ads would all but stop. Problem solved.

    While most political ads are spam, force them have facts and truth in them, not made up horror stories.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The GOP probably will claim a divine right for their ads to go through unfiltered. The USA is heading towards an Iran style theocracy.

  20. Hazmoid

    I want to know how they are going to tell if the gmail account is US based or not. I have had my gmail account since Google started, and I still get spam for someone in the US with the same surname, and matching first initial. Given that Google just got sued over geolocation services on Android, I want to know how they will confirm that the gmail accounts they are spamming are based in the US (I was repeatedly spammed by various Texan Republicans, who I just blocked during the last US election cycle. )

  21. Tubz

    email rule to forward a copy to FCC, Google, political parties, POTUS or any other body that you want to p!ss off ! A few million emails may make them change their minds.

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