Judge tosses Republican lawsuit against Google over Gmail spam filters

The RNC had claimed it lost donor money due to a bias against conservatives.

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Last year, the Republican National Committee (RNC) filed a lawsuit against Google accusing it of political bias over its Gmail spam filters. Now, a federal judge has dismissed that lawsuit, noting that Google was effectively protected by Section 230 of US law, and that the RNC had not "sufficiently pled that Google acted in bad faith" by filtering out campaign emails, The Washington Post has reported.

According to the lawsuit, Google intentionally marked "millions" of RNC emails as spam, so the group sought reimbursement for "donations it allegedly lost as a result" of that. As evidence, it cited a study finding that Gmail was more likely than Yahoo and other mail systems to mark Republican emails as spam. (One of the study's authors told the Post last year that its findings were cherry-picked.)

Calling the lawsuit a "close case," US District Court judge Daniel Calabretta said the RNC had "failed to plausibly allege its claims" that Google's spam filtering was done in bad faith. Google said that the emails in questions were likely flagged as spam because of user complaints, and cited RNC domain authentication issues and frequent mailouts as other potential issues.

The court also decided that RNC emails could be deemed "objectionable" based on the CAN-SPAM Act, and the fact that Google flagged them as such was covered by Section 230, which provides immunity to online platforms from civil liability based on third-party content. All that said, the judge said Republicans could still amend the lawsuit to better establish a lack of good faith by Google.

Interestingly, during last year's mid-term US elections, Google created a loophole allowing political campaigns to dodge Gmail spam filters. However, the RNC reportedly didn't take advantage of the program. Google has since ended the experiment, following largely negative feedback from the public.