A Google program that would keep political campaign emails from automatically going to Gmail’s spam filter has been approved by the Federal Elections Commission.
In a 4-1 vote, the FEC on Thursday approved the pilot program, which allows for candidates, political party committees, and leadership political action committees to bypass Gmail’s spam detection systems.
FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, voiced concerns about the program and voted against it.
"I have a hard time getting around the fact that this is a unique benefit offered to political committees, and only political committees," she said.
The fact that it is only available to PACs "raises all sorts of alarm bells because that sounds like the classic definition of an in-kind contribution," she added.
Gmail users will be able to opt out of receiving the emails and have the option of manually marking them as spam.
Google announced the program after a study published by North Carolina State University found that the company was disproportionately filtering out Republican fundraising emails as spam when compared to those of Democratic lawmakers and candidates.
"Our goal during this pilot program is to assess alternative ways of addressing concerns from bulk senders, while giving users clear controls over their inboxes to minimize unwanted email," José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, said in a statement to The Verge. "We will continue to monitor feedback as the pilot rolls out to ensure it is meeting its goals."
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