Marco Rubio Got Furious At Google Because His Fundraising Emails Were Going To Spam. Turns Out His Email Was Misconfigured
Over the last few months, we’ve been covering a ridiculous situation in which Republicans are trying to force their spam into your inboxes. It began with a study that some Republicans misread (or deliberately misinterpreted) to claim that Google was “censoring” their political mailings. That study showed that for an untrained, brand new mailbox, Google would send more GOP campaign mailings to spam as compared to Democrats. However, it also showed that the reverse was true for other large email providers Outlook.com and Yahoo Mail. Perhaps even more importantly, it showed that if the user did just a bit of training of Gmail’s spam filter, this issue went away. Also, the study did not take into account the differences in tone, style, and content of Republican and Democrat emails.
And yet… if you talk to some Republicans, you’d think this was the biggest issue ever. Of course, last week the NY Times may have uncovered the real root cause of this (though it did not connect the two): donations to Republicans have been dropping. There are likely many reasons for this. It could be the tight economy. It could be that more and more people are realizing Republicans no longer stand for anything beyond stupid culture wars. It could be that for all the fun it is to “own the libs,” now that the Supreme Court has dismantled a variety of rights and protections, people are waking up with a bit of a hangover, and a realization that this isn’t what they actually wanted. There are lots of reasons it could be, but the Republicans — driven by the Republicans’ favorite spamming agency, Targeted Victory — have decided that it must be because Google is sending their emails to spam.
Thus, they’re doing everything they can to force their spam into your inbox. This includes introducing an actual law that says email providers can no longer shunt politician emails to spam. Google, perhaps fearing an upcoming GOP administration, folded like a cheap card table, and requested that the Federal Election Commission allow them to whitelist politician emails. The FEC has been flooded with comments about this proposal, almost all of them screaming that they don’t want this. It’s still quite possible that the FEC will approve the program, because the request to the FEC is really about whether or not this is an unfair campaign contribution, not whether or not people want more political spam in their inbox.
And, yes, it’s political spam. As we’ve noted repeatedly, Republicans in recent years have really embraced extremely spammy techniques that appear to be much more focused on separating gullible rubes from their money, including tricking them into unwittingly making recurring donations (perhaps another reason why their fans are less interested in donating this time around). We’ve also covered how one Republican candidate is tricking people into donating to his campaign by pretending he’s sending emails on behalf of more famous candidates like Trump or DeSantis.
In short: Republicans are using spam techniques, pushing historically unpopular ideas, and ripping off their base. But, rather than fix any of that, they want to force people to see their spammy emails in their inboxes.
Last week, the Washington Post had a deep dive article on all of this with a few quite revealing anecdotes. It covers various meetings and sessions where clueless GOP politicians scream at Google without realizing how much they’re telling on themselves. The most notable: Marco Rubio apparently was absolutely furious with Google… until someone realized whoever he was paying to handle his email hadn’t configured his email properly, and that was the problem:
The most forceful rebuke, attendees said, came from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who claimed that not a single email from one of his addresses was reaching inboxes. The reason, it was later determined, was that a vendor had not enabled an authentication tool that keeps messages from being marked as spam, according to people briefed on the discussions. Rubio campaign manager Mark Morgan said the problem also required Google to perform a reset on its end. Google’s Castañeda said such resets are standard practice once senders adhere to best practices.
The article doesn’t go into detail, but it sounds like Rubio’s spamming operation didn’t set up a DKIM/DMARC authentication setup. I know this is plaguing lots of folks. Hell, it’s something we’ve had to deal with at Techdirt after we realized that Google was sending a lot of our emails to spam. But, rather than whine about “bias” against us, we explored the details and figured out how to fix our email configuration.
Also notable in the WaPo story? The fact that this is driven by the Republicans favored spamming company, Targeted Victory. We wrote a story suggesting they were behind this whole moral panic and the WaPo story, in passing, more or less confirms it:
Both Coby, from the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, and Zac Moffatt, Targeted Victory’s chief executive, were present, which struck some participants as unusual for a policy lunch.
Uh yeah. You don’t normally have your campaign spam vendor showing up to a policy lunch. Unless your campaign spam vendor is so shit at their job, that they have to go and blame Google rather than admit that their spammy fund raising tactics are failing because more and more people are sick and tired of the spam.
But, honestly, throughout the article, the one sense you get over and over again is that Republicans have an astounding sense of entitlement, combined with an incredible ignorance of how basic technology works. Add to that a lack of concern for the truth, and you get nonsense like this:
Some were unconvinced by the company’s responses. “What Google is saying is false,” Moffatt told The Post, accusing the company of seeking to “distract attention from the proven problem of unfair filtering. … Now that there has been independent, third-party confirmations, they are scrambling to find a half-baked solution that is completely unworkable.”
Coby, in a statement, said voters who sign up to receive campaign emails “should receive 100 percent of the emails unless they unsubscribe or mark the email as spam.”
“This is not what happens on Gmail. They choose to actively block GOP emails even if the voter has not taken these actions,” he added. “Google is lying if they tell you they only block emails when a voter marks as spam or unsubscribes.” (Google does not say that, in fact outlining a range of factors that go into spam filtering, such as suspicious links and phrases, in addition to user behavior.)
These very unserious people are so convinced that they’re the victims of some conspiracy that they’re even making up what Google is trying to explain to them as to why their spam gets classified as spam.
The “Google is lying if they tell you…” line is hilariously revealing. Google has never said that. It’s what an unserious, very foolish person is pretending they said because he can’t come to terms with the fact that his own company sucks at what it does, and his clients are mad. So, now he’s convinced them that Google is to blame, because his clients are even more ignorant. It’s nonsense all the way down.
Hilariously, this situation has gotten so stupid that pretty much the only people who think that Google is deliberately blocking emails are Republican politicians. As I was finishing up this article, I saw that Erick Erickson, a very rightwing/Republican supporting commentator, had a whole Substack post complaining about this same thing, and noting that this is all an attempt by Republican spam consultants to shift the blame away from their own shit email practices.
The consultant class of the GOP is pushing the mythology that Google and Apple are flagging their emails because tech companies hate Republicans. I’ve spent a week on the phone with many Republican consultants, including those tied to campaigns whose emails make it to my inbox. They all tell me the same thing — the problem is not Google or Apple, but the GOP consultant class.
He posts multiple screenshots of his own email inbox, which is basically full of Republican political spam that he never signed up for, and highlights how it’s all just terrible email practices from Republican campaigns and their “digital” consultants.
These are not examples of Google abusing Republican emails. This is an example of Republican consultants abusing emails they have access to and Google and Apple protecting their users from spam.
Unfortunately, the Republican consultants have the ears of their leaders and their solution is to pressure Google and Apple to let all the spam go through. They are selling Republican elected officials on the idea that Google is nefariously blocking their emails.
The reality is the consultants will not fess up to their abuses. They will not own up to their poor stewardship of email lists. They’ll claim the Democrats are more effective because of tech company biases and not because the Democrats are actually better stewards of an email file.
The reality though is easy to notice.
So, even their supporters are noticing that Republican emails go to spam because they are spam. As Erickson notes:
Email and SMS spam are driving away small dollar Republican donors. The candidates are now reaping what their consultants have been sowing.
It would be nice if the media stopped covering this made up campaign as if it’s a real story, and noted the same reality that Erickson has noticed. The problem is not the spam filters. The problem is the “digital campaign” companies and their terrible practices.
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August 1, 2022 at 11:02AM