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GOP stumbles in suit claiming Google censors donation emails

GOP stumbles in suit claiming Google censors donation emails

By Joel Rosenblatt | Bloomberg

A Republican National Committee lawsuit accusing Google of routing emails to Gmail users’ spam folders was tossed out by a judge who said the internet giant fairly concluded they were unwanted messages.

The committee argued filtering by the Alphabet Inc. unit suppressed political speech and hurt fundraising. Republicans have long accused the technology giants of censoring conservatives and their views, something the companies deny.

In the lawsuit filed in Sacramento, California, the RNC argued messages sent through Gmail reach party supporter inboxes most of the time, except at the end of the month when fundraising is most successful. The committee said the problem persisted for months despite its efforts to work with Google.

US District Judge Daniel Calabretta ruled that though it’s a “close case,” Google’s practices are protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the decades-old federal statute that shields internet companies from liability over the comments, ads, pictures and videos on their platforms.

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The law also holds that a provider such as Google can filter spam, including marketing emails, as “objectionable,” Calabretta said. Congress recognized the harm spam can cause when it enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non–Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, or “CAN–SPAM” Act, in 2003, he said.

Even if the RNC complies with CAN-SPAM, Google may consider multiple marketing emails to be “objectionable,” the judge said. “Just because a user interacts with a company at one point in time does not mean that the user ‘solicits’ each and every email sent by the entity,” Calabretta ruled.

Calabretta gave the RNC a chance to revise and refile the complaint.

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