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Bias In Your Inbox? Republicans accuse Google of spamming their campaign emails

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) — It’s not everyday that people check their spam folders — but it could be the destination of dozens of campaign emails destined for your inbox.

A North Carolina State University study found that Google sent 68% of Republican campaign emails to spam – while just 8% of Democrats met the same fate.

Sen. John Thune (RS.D.) introduces a bill called the Political BIAS Email Act that would ban big tech from filtering campaign emails

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“Google shouldn’t use a filtering algorithm to send spam messages from political candidates,” Thune said, “whether Republican or Democrat.”

Cybersecurity expert Matthew Curtin explains that the algorithms take data and sort it in a way that could be useful to the user. It sifts through emails, weeds out things that users might not want, and prioritizes things that might be interesting based on user habits. He thinks Google’s triage may not be malicious in nature — it could come down to the wording of those emails.

“It’s possible that the people writing the content are using words that are more easily associated with things that are actually spam,” Curtin said.

As an example, he explains that emails asking for money are usually flagged as suspicious – and many campaign emails do just that. The algorithm picks it up.

“And as a result, it starts to train the filters to start looking for these messages,” Curtin said, “and then automatically send them to the spam folders of people who might want to have them. »

Republicans aren’t the only victims – the study (https://arxiv.org/pdf/2203.16743.pdf) found that Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo servers spam more Democratic emails than Republicans. Although there are currently only Republicans co-signing the bill, Thune hopes Democrats will be convinced as well.

“I hope they will be a Democratic support,” Thune said, “If you are someone who tries to reign in the influence of social media platforms and other technology platforms, then you should be for this because it creates transparency – and puts the power back in the hands of the consumer instead of the tech company”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with lawmakers on June 22. After that meeting, he promised that Google would be more transparent with its data on spam filtering and its interactions with political campaigns.

Copyright 2022 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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