Gmail is the most popular email provider in the world, with nearly 2 billion users, and a big reason for that is its spam filter. For nearly 20 years, Gmail has succeeded where rivals have struggled to keep spam in its place. But now Google risks undoing all that good work.
In June, an Axios report revealed Google’s intention to allow emails from political campaigns to bypass Gmail’s spam filter. The decision was met with widespread public contempt. Still, Google persisted, and now the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has voted 4-1 to give the company the go-ahead. And the implications for all Gmail users are significant.
While Google praised the FEC for its “quick review” and signaled its intention to launch a user pilot program, criticism was strong both on the FEC site and on social media.
There are several key talking points here. In the short term, this move is likely to open the floodgates to a lot more political campaign emails. The parties will know they are passing through by default, and any user attempts to block the sender can be easily circumvented by sending them from a new address.
In the long term, this decision also sets a precedent for Google to potentially create exemptions in other areas, whether it’s a specific category of email or paid partnerships. Mismanaged, Google risks destroying the very functionality that has established Gmail’s success.
So why is this happening? Google says the move is driven by a desire for political neutrality. Aka, if everything goes by default, there can be no bias. It is then up to the user to selectively block the content.
Google says there will be a “prominent notification” for this, although in a world where a sender can generate new addresses at will, this could still lead to a lot of frustration for Gmail users. There’s also the question of where Google draws the line because it will come under immense pressure from more controversial political groups to make the same exemptions.
In response, Google told 9to5Google, “We will continue to monitor feedback as the pilot is rolled out to ensure it is meeting its goals. »
Given the public outcry the last time Gmail suffered a brief spam filter failure, I believe Google is playing with fire, and pacifying political parties at the expense of your user base rarely ends well. Pandora’s box is open.
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