Gmail beta will exempt political emails from the spam filter

Back in June, it emerged that Google wanted to exclude emails from political campaigns in the United States from the Gmail spam filter. This sparked a lot of backlash, but the company is going ahead with the pilot program after receiving approval today from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

This beta program means that emails from registered political campaigns will not be flagged as spam by Gmail. It is the result of complaints about alleged partisanship.

From an end user’s perspective, the first political email received from a campaign (which Google has confirmed is valid with the FEC) will have a “prominent notice” asking “whether the user wishes to continue receiving messages from the sender”. It’s not clear what design this will take, but it may appear (if current spam warnings are any indication) at the top of the message upon opening.

If you say no, “Future emails from this sender to a specific user will be placed in the spam folder”. After the initial email, Google also requires that political emails allow “one-click unsubscribe”.

Unless the user opts out in the first message or any subsequent messages from a particular sender, the user will continue to receive messages from that sender. Furthermore, Gmail users will be able to express their preferences at any time and influence future delivery by marking the sender’s message as spam or not spam.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) granted approval today, and Google, in a statement to us, said it would continue the pilot program. You will watch comments while the program starts:

We appreciate FEC’s prompt review of our application and will consider the positive and negative comments received during the public comment period. Our goal during this pilot program is to evaluate alternative ways to address concerns from bulk senders, while giving users clear controls over their inboxes to reduce spam. We will continue to monitor feedback while the beta program begins to make sure it meets its goals.

– Google spokesperson

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