RNC says Google suppressed more than 22M GOTV, fundraising emails in September, exploring 'legal options'

Google says party affiliation does not impact whether emails are sent to Gmail spam folders

EXCLUSIVE: The Republican National Committee says Google is suppressing get-out-the-vote and fundraising emails by sending millions of GOP election emails to users’ Gmail spam folders, with party leadership threatening to explore legal options to "put an end" to what they call a "clear pattern of bias." 

According to RNC officials, emails being sent by the RNC to Republican subscribers who use Gmail accounts in the final days of each month are being sent to spam folders.

An RNC official told Fox News Digital that since Sept. 28, Gmail has "suppressed" more than 22 million RNC emails—358,000 of which were GOTV emails.

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On Sept. 28, Gmail spammed more than 3.1 million RNC emails. The next day, Gmail spammed more than 9.8 million RNC emails, and on Sept. 30, Gmail spammed more than 9.97 million RNC mails.

An RNC official told Fox News Digital that Republicans have raised this issue with Google "for months" and said they have received "no resolution." 

The RNC says Gmail is spamming its GOTV and fundraising emails at the end of each month. 

The RNC says Gmail is spamming its GOTV and fundraising emails at the end of each month. 

"Our emails have been suppressed despite concrete changes that have improved overall performance," an official said, noting the RNC, last month, updated their segmentation to factor in recency of click, petition signature, and donation.

"Despite having a significantly positive impact on performance, this appears to have had absolutely no impact on the timing of this end-of-month spamming," the official explained.

The RNC provided Fox News with data showing that party emails go from "strong inbox delivery— 90-100%" down to 0% at the end of the month.

"Every single month, like clockwork, Google suppresses important GOTV and fundraising emails at the end of the month, with zero explanation nor commitment from Google to resolve this issue," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News. "We are less than 40 days out from Election Day, and important GOTV emails to our opted-in voters in states that have already started early voting are being systematically sent to spam."

"Enough is enough," she said. "Big Tech bias is undermining the democratic process and the RNC is exploring our legal options to put an end to this clear pattern of bias." 

Republican Party officials told Fox News that Google’s "disproportionate suppression of Republican emails constitutes an illegal corporate contribution to Democrat candidates."

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel headlines the New Hampshire GOP's unity breakfast, on Sept. 15, 2022 in Concord, N.H.

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel headlines the New Hampshire GOP's unity breakfast, on Sept. 15, 2022 in Concord, N.H. (Fox News)

RNC officials are now urging the Federal Election Commission to launch a formal investigation into Google’s practices.

Google, though, told Fox News that political affiliation plays "no role" in whether emails are placed in spam folders. 

"We enable political committees and other organizations to reach their constituents, donors, and key audiences via email. When Gmail users say that they don't want to receive an email, we place the email in the spam folder, politics or political affiliation plays no role in this determination," Google spokesperson José Castañeda told Fox News. "We recently launched a Federal Election Commission approved pilot program with a small number of campaigns to study whether these changes improve the user experience during this election period." 

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He added: "We will continue to listen and respond to feedback as the pilot progresses." 

The pilot program, which was approved by the FEC by a bipartisan 4-1 vote is open to certain political committees who are actively registered with the FEC during the 2022 elections.

Castañeda told Fox News that while the program is still in its early days, Google is seeing a small number of verified political campaigns across both major parties participating. 

The study indicates that spam is largely defined as "unsolicited email that comes from an entity that the recipient is not already aware of or has no interest in knowing about," but Google defines it as "any content that is unwanted by the user." 

The study indicates that spam is largely defined as "unsolicited email that comes from an entity that the recipient is not already aware of or has no interest in knowing about," but Google defines it as "any content that is unwanted by the user."  (Reuters)

In order to gain eligibility to the program, participants are required to meet security and authentication requirements and must comply with Google's "bulk sender best practices." 

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Under the program, though, Castañeda said users remain "100% in control" of their inboxes, meaning Gmail users are given the choice to mark a message as spam or to unsubscribe. If a user chooses to unsubscribe, the emails don't just go to spam, but rather stop coming to the users' inbox altogether, as it requires the campaign or party to remove that user from their distribution list within 24 hours. 

Castañeda said that campaigns who hit a 5% spam rate will be removed from the pilot program. 

The RNC says it is exploring its legal options as it claims Gmail spams millions of Republican emails in the final days of each month for the last 10 months. 

The RNC says it is exploring its legal options as it claims Gmail spams millions of Republican emails in the final days of each month for the last 10 months.  (Getty Images / Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Republicans have pointed to a non-partisan study by researchers at North Carolina State University which found that Gmail allows the vast majority of emails from the Democratic Party to land in the user's inbox while more than two-thirds of messages from conservative candidates are marked as spam

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Gmail "retained the majority of left-wing candidate emails in inbox (< 10.12% marked as spam) while sent the majority of right-wing candidate emails to the spam folder (up to 77.2% marked as spam)," the study found

During the 2020 election cycle, an RNC official said the study found that Gmail routed Republican emails to spam at a rate approximately 820% higher than similar Democrat fundraising appeals.

Fox News first reported on the study earlier this year, which found that conservative candidates raised $737 million on Republican fundraising platform WinRed from Gmail users in 2019 and 2020. Because, according to the study, just 32% of fundraising emails were delivered, the Republicans estimate they missed out on $1.5 billion in contributions during the 2020 election cycle.