The Federal Election Commission (FEC) voted Thursday to allow Google to push forward a Gmail pilot program that would allow campaign emails to dodge spam filters, a move that comes after accusations from Republicans that the filters were biased against their messages.
The FEC voted 4-1 to approve the program, concluding that the test of new features is permissible under campaign law.
Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who voted against the order, said she has “a hard time getting around the fact that this is a unique benefit offered to political committees, and only to political committees.”
Democratic Commissioner Dara Lindenbaum joined the three Republicans in voting for the program, but expressed similar hesitation.
“I don’t want to [support this], and it’s for the same reasons all the commenters don’t want to, but I think the law and commissioner regulations and commission precedent permits this,” Lindenbaum said.
“I also don’t want to hamstring innovation and pilot programs. So if Google does move forward with this program, I hope it will reduce and not expand spam and increase best practices for bulk senders,” she added.
Democratic Commissioner Shana Brossard abstained.
Google requested the FEC’s approval on the program in June, Axios first reported, after backlash from Republicans over accusations that Gmail filters were pushing more GOP campaign emails to spam.
Google spokesperson José Castañeda said the company will “reflect on the positive and negative feedback received during the public comment period.”
“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. We will continue to monitor feedback as the pilot rolls out to ensure it is meeting its goals,” he said in a statement.