Google shouldn’t be able to flood your inbox with campaign spam, but it might—if the Federal Election Commission (FEC) allows it to.
In a recent Advisory Opinion Request to the FEC, the corporation proposed a program that would allow political campaigns to circumvent general spam filters free of charge. If accepted, Google’s program would not only unlawfully provide a unique service to registered political entities, but, even more troubling, it would serve the needs of only one side of the partisan divide.
Under federal law, corporations may provide services to registered political entities on the same terms and conditions available to the general public. By only lifting its general spam features for registered political entities, however, Google would be providing a unique service to registered political entities but not to Google’s millions of other users.
Similarly concerning and just as unlawful is the likely motivation for Google’s request: a desire to meet the demands of Republican-affiliated officeholders. After a recent study found that Google’s spam filters disproportionately affect politically right emails, Republicans have accused Google of influencing elections in favor of Democrats. Lifting spam filters for political entities, then, would allow Google to avoid retaliatory legislation from Republicans, but it would also violate federal law: piloting a program that confers a benefit on one party could constitute an attempt to influence federal elections.
CREW has submitted a comment to the FEC, urging the Commission to reject Google’s AO Request and protect the integrity of federal elections. If the FEC intends to promote transparency and enforce compliance with federal election laws, it must ensure that no corporation, including Google, attempts to influence our elections.