- Google wants to make it easier for politicians to email you for money and help.
- The company sought permission from the Federal Election Commission – and to act quickly.
- But the commissioners are giving the public more time to comment on the proposal.
Amid growing public outrage over misleading and hyperbolic fundraising arguments, the Federal Election Commission unanimously agreed to give Americans an additional three weeks to criticize Google. request to quickly allow political committee emails to bypass its Gmail spam filters.
If Google has its way, Americans might expect a lot more political fundraising and communications emails to land in their main inbox instead of disappearing into their spam folders.
Thursday’s unanimous decision by the bipartisan 6-member Federal Election Commission follows a recent Insider report that the public had little knowledge about the obscure but potentially crucial case for Gmail users – or a long time to send. the FEC’s comments thereon.
The FEC initially said the public had until July 11 to comment on Google’s request, which became public on July 6. Regulators later revised the deadline to July 16 before officially extending it to Thursday to August 5.
“Insider’s coverage of the short comment period caught the attention of the Commission,” said an FEC staffer familiar with the commissioners’ deliberations but not authorized to speak officially.
FEC Chairman Allen Dickerson, a Republican, said it was “prudent to exercise our discretion” to extend the public comment period, given the implications of the case.
Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub added: “There seems to be a lot of interest in this one.”
“As a longtime Google (Gmail) user and voting citizen in this country, I implore you not to allow unsolicited political emails to be sent to Gmail users,” one commenter wrote on July 12. “There is no conceivable benefit to the user and, instead, poses security risks, abuses of their privacy, and opens the door to greater foreign influence in our nation’s elections.”
Another wrote: “You are clearly aware that you are allowing corporate profiteers to manipulate the system and gain an unfair advantage by: 1. NOT adequately informing the public 2. NOT EXTENDING the response time public.”
Republican FEC Commissioner Trey Trainor expressed concern Thursday that the FEC has yet to offer or draft a formal response to Google, and that beyond Google’s own request , “the public has nothing to comment on”.
He also lamented that the commission, in general, is often slow to make decisions and that regulated companies such as Google are “moving faster than us.”
Nonetheless, Trainor voted to extend the comment period, citing the FEC having originally, and mistakenly, announced the July 11 public comment deadline.
“We have to get it right every time,” he said.
The FEC asked people to email comments about the case to [email protected]
Google Political Email Plan
As described in its application to the FEC, Google wants to “launch a pilot program for Authorized Candidate Committees, Political Party Committees, and Leadership Political Action Committees” that would ensure that emails from accepted committees “do not will not be affected by forms of spam detection to which they would otherwise be subject.”
Google said its political anti-spam pilot program “is not intended to favor or oppose any particular candidate, party, or speaker, or influence the outcome of any election.”
Any FEC-registered committee whose emails comply with Google’s terms of service and do not contain prohibited content such as malware or phishing can apply to participate.
However, Google’s concerns, expressed in a 15 page letter at the FEC by Allen & Overy LLP attorney Claire Rajan on July 1 — focusing on whether her efforts would constitute “prohibited in-kind contributions” to political committees.
Simply put: Google wants the government to be reassured that it’s not breaking any laws by offering politicians and political operatives a potentially valuable service. Alleged violations of federal campaign finance laws can result in costly investigations and potential civil fines, not to mention bad press.