I Prayed have prayed
Lord, we pray that technology company leaders would approach this new study with open minds. May they take steps to re-assure consumers that their email products will not exhibit ideological spam bias.

Republicans are claiming Google’s censorship shorted them billions of dollars in campaign support. In this instance the allegation is not against the tech giant’s ubiquitous search engine or ads. It’s email — Google’s popular Gmail service, to be precise. As evidence, GOP leaders are pointing to a new academic study that suggests a Gmail propensity to mark 2 out of every 3 right-leaning candidate emails in the 2020 election cycle as spam.

Google rejects this premise. Noting that its email service automatically responds to user actions in making message determinations, a Google spokesperson told FOX News, “Political affiliation has absolutely no bearing on mail classifications in Gmail.”

But RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and her Senate and House campaign committee colleagues said, “Big Tech has been silencing conservative voices and actively working against Republicans for multiple cycles. Google’s e-mail suppression – which affects the GOP’s fundraising and GOTV efforts – is another egregious example.”

Now, if you’re like me, you try to avoid spam folders. I’m not interested in unsolicited offers of free vacations or promises of cure-all drugs. I’m also fine not seeing the marketing pleas of more legitimate businesses that scraped my email from some shared list or a one-off purchase I made a decade or two ago. I really only venture into the junk folder when I’m concerned I may have missed a message more important to me. And when I do, I’m definitely on my guard against those much parodied “Nigerian prince” scams and worse.

So, in general, I’m thankful for the spam folder. Is it perfect? No. Helpful? Yes. Unless, that is, it is trying to manipulate me.

And that is the concern that arises in the findings of this new study published by computer science researchers at North Carolina State University. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, these individuals set up more than 100 email accounts on the 3 most popular free email platforms: Google’s Gmail, Microsoft’s Outlook, and Yahoo. For fairness, they accounted for age, gender, and other demographic factors while setting up the accounts and then subscribed to receive electronic updates from both the Trump and Biden teams, as well as 78 Senate and 156 House campaigns.

The researchers designed two tests. First, they wanted to see how email providers would treat campaign emails coming into accounts that were essentially blank slates for their spam-catching algorithms. They also wished to explore how interactions such as a user reading emails, moving messages to spam, or moving marked spam to the main inbox would affect future delivery of messages.

The study found that Microsoft’s Outlook was generally the most dismissive of campaign emails, marking more than 70 percent of them as spam, including more than 95 percent of left-leaning emails (compared to about three quarters of right-leaning emails). Candidates had roughly a 50 percent shot of their emails getting to Yahoo user inboxes with more conservative candidates having a 14.2 percent better chance than those on the Left.

These trends are noteworthy, but perhaps most striking were the results for Gmail. In their baseline experiment the NC State research team found 67.6 percent of emails from the right  were marked as spam, while just 8.2 percent of those on the left were filtered as junk. That is a huge chasm. In addition, the study found the percentage of conservative emails that Gmail marked as spam increased as the election drew closer.

To Gmail’s credit it did seem most responsive to user actions in adjusting its algorithm. While maintaining a left-leaning bias, Google’s service did make significant changes when the user moved messages to spam or, even more markedly, moved messages from spam to the main inbox. Of note, reading messages apparently did little to change spam rulings of any of the platforms.

The researchers conclude that political affiliation of senders does appear to have some effect on whether a message gets flagged as spam. They note they don’t have reason to believe such spam filter biases are intentional tech company efforts to persuade voters, but still the issue is there.

“As these prominent email services are actively used by a sizable chunk of voting population and as many of the voters today rely on the information they see (or don’t see) online, such biases may have an unignorable impact on the outcomes of an election,” they warned.

The easy response here for tech advocates will be to brush off this study. “Just algorithms being algorithms,” as one wrote. But such dismissiveness is a wrong and counterproductive posture.

One need not believe top leaders in Silicon Valley are all intentionally scheming against voices they dislike to recognize evidences of bias — whatever the source — in this study and a host of other examples. The 73 percent of U.S. adults who think Big Tech platforms (in that case social media platforms) censor certain disfavored political views are not all suffering a mass delusion.

We also don’t need to close our eyes to the spam-like nature of emails from a number of campaigns. I have no doubt many of us would like the daily rants or pleas for money from certain candidates to make their way next to the junk emails of the overzealous, nagging, legitimate businesses in our junk folders.

What we need is an open-minded approach to this evidence — one that is committed to ensuring spam filters do not become yet another unseen ideological battleground.

Will you pray that tech leaders will heed the warnings of this new study and will take an honest look at potential bias in their platforms, particularly email services like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo?

Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.s public policy arena. Photo Credit: Photo by Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash.

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Sean
April 21, 2022

Okay so I have to remain neutral on this one. On one hand you have Gmails algarithims that base off of user data and what the user deletes with out opening the emails. The algarithims pick up on that and sends the future emails into the spam folder. Makes since to me. I think part of the GOP stuff is censored because I would notice that my GOPUSA Newsletter would end up in my spam folder and I know because when I delete my spam I would skim through to double check my spam folder. Now as for the Campaign emails for the GOP I have to say speaking from my own own experience and I’m pretty sure it’s the same way with the left as well but if you donate to any campaign it’s over. I’m talking constant Text message barrage, Emails out the blow hole and the thing is these candidates turn support off from the supporters because like myself no wants to be constantly hassled every second of the day about donating money to a campaign or harrassed saying just because you did not donate money that your a disserter. The crap gets old and honestly my belief is this. These campaigns should not be taking money from out of state it’s that simple. No special interest group, Big Tech, Big Pharma, none of that crap. There should be a limit on how high the donation amounts are that these campaigns recieve preventing mega donors like Mike Zuckerbutts from Fake Book or 3/4 of Hollywood, or Fake News Media like MSNDC, CBSDC, FOX, etc. The campaigns should only be ran by support and donations from the people. For example for me I live in Texas the only campaign emails I should be getting should be from whose ever running for office in Texas or President. It’s that simple. My garsh can imagin how broke we would be if we were to try and support every “serious in jeopardy” campaign that’s fallen behind I mean we would all be broke. My point is this GOP or even Libs or Independents my cry censorship of their campaign ad spam when really it actuall is. In my opinion so kinda a bit of a no brainer there. My advise for those of you who donate to campaigns stick to your president, states and local races and it would save you a lot of hassle and hey so if the politician in dire need doesn’t make it got news for ya: it’s not your fault okay it would be the peoples fault that lives in that state who decided not to care. Last point I myself delete my campaign emails on a regular day basis and maybe donate accassionally but that would be a great reason why these emails may end up in the spam folder. I also find myself wondering where the remainder of the campaign money is going particularly the libs mega donors who donate not thousands which would seem more fair I guess but millions which to me is a bit over kill in my opinion. I think someone is pocketing it also makes since as to why the libs generally have that Elitist dont care about the College Vote mantality maybe because in their perfect world they could just buy elections and disenfranchise voters to the point to where they could careless if the voters turned on them and polls slipped. Also makes since as to why Libs and RINOs seem so hell bent on corporate government control. Inflation is soaring, cost of living is soaring but why? Could be because in 2016 Donald J Trump won the election off of the donations of the voters? I don’t know call it C-Theory but my hunch is the Establishment fears the American people and realized that if they can squeeze what little money we have then that’s going to hurt the MAGA and honest campaigns. Just a hunch I’m no expert just a Custodian who cleans toilets for a living.

Lord Heavenly Father all I want is simple I pray that you can help us see the truth and that Father that you would shine light in all of the corruption and what’s going on behind closed doors. I also pray that more and more people will wake up and start asking more and more questions and seek answers. Big Tech has been in the spot light a lot and with good reason but Father please don’t let us get carried away and get to crazy with the none sence. God I pray for discerntment that you would help us to make heads and tails of this mess. In Glorious Jesus’ name I pray Amen.

Allena Jordan
April 19, 2022

Lord, so many CEOs think that they are the owners of their platforms. However, we know what the Bible says – You Oh, God, own everything. Father, the people managing these platforms seem to have no knowledge of You, the Creator of all, including the technology running these platforms. Lord, take the ownership and give it to those who will honor You and Your Word. It belongs to You. Do with it as You please. Bring glory to Your name through these huge technology companies. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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De Bray
April 19, 2022

I know this to be the case. I frequently check my Spam folder for my Gmail and find items from Liberty Council anf Republican candidate email and other items that I have specifically not put in the Spam folder.
AOL is notorious for sending my IFA pray.org mail to Spam. I have not marked that Address as Spam And I frequently move it from the Spam folder. It is not the only conservative email that seems to have that happen. Very sad.14

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Rhonda Chesnutt
April 19, 2022

I have moved the GOP to my spam folder. They send me about 20 a day for candidates all over the country. All they do is beg for money. No real interest in wanting to know what I as a Republican want. Why can’t there be one Republican fund to donate to and candidates can pull from it?

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r m
April 19, 2022

Sandy Zimmerman, don’t use gmail. I avoid everything google if I can. I use duckduckgo.com for my searches. Open up another email on one of those free sites like yahoo, hotmail, etc. and copy the political stuff there. I have to assume lawsuits have been filed against several of the big tech companies for censoring, etc. Nothing will happen with the lawsuits until after the Nov 2022 elections and this heathen administration is out of office. If you submit email, get smart and be creative with “sensitive” words. Use the SHIFT key and insert characters (or punctuation) between letters of “sensitive” words. I have to assume the censoring algorithms have word tables. If you break up the word with characters, most of the time the “m^o*d^i^f*i#e*d” word will get past the word tables and post.

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    Ellen Hoffman
    April 19, 2022

    Duck, Duck, Go has been bought out. It is now filtering out right sided views as well. Money may talk – but our Lord is still greater!

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    De Bray
    April 19, 2022

    Proton mail is secure, free, and doesn’t snoop.

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Granny
April 19, 2022

This absolutely happened to me and I actually sent screen shots of it to my friends! And it was more like 99% of them went straight to SPAM . Anything else political came to my inbox .

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Sandy Zimmerman
April 19, 2022

I repeatedly moved Trumps “Save America” emails from my spam folder to my inbox in gmail, and marked them as “not spam”, but still, 99% if them went into my spam folder. Now they’ve disappeared altogether. I no longer receive them.

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