Is The GOP Pro-Political Spam Bill Driven Entirely By GOP’s Favorite Spam Factory?

from the sure-seems-like-it dept

Last week we wrote about a truly silly bill, introduced by a bunch of Republican Senators, that would basically ban email providers from letting political mailings go to spam. It’s quite a move to make it a key part of your political platform that politicians need to get special rights to spam people, but, alas, this is about the extent of today’s Republican party, a pathetic shell of what it once was.

We’ve been following this story since it began, calling out how the whole made up moral panic — that Google was supposedly “blocking” Republican political emails — was kicked off by some GOP political operatives who misrepresented a study and screamed about it loudly on Twitter until Fox News picked it up and ran with it. Once again, the study itself found that while Gmail blocked more GOP emails than Democratic emails, it found the exact opposite for Yahoo Mail and Outlook. Also (more importantly), it found that the Gmail results were only true for users who expressed no preferences. If a user trained the spam filter even a tiny bit, the differences went away.

So, already, this story about “Google censoring Republican campaign emails” was a bit fishy. But, as I’ve been looking into it, it gets dumber and dumber. I recalled that many of the political operatives who were pushing the story back in early April worked for Republican spam shop “Targeted Victory.”

You may recall Targeted Victory as the shop that Facebook hired to push bogus moral panics about TikTok, including fanning the flames about moral panics, made up by adults on Facebook that kids on TikTok were going to attack teachers and schools.

And while Targeted Victory has a thriving business pushing political propaganda for corporations, it’s mostly known as the digital marketing shop for Republican political campaigns. In the 2020 election cycle, Targeted Victory worked for over 150 campaigns, including massive multi-million dollar campaigns for the National Republican Senatorial and National Republican Congressional Committees.

In other words, Targeted Victory is most likely one of, if not the most, responsible companies for sending so much Republican campaign spam. And, they were also the ones who misrepresented and hyped up this study — which might more fairly be read to note that Targeted Victory is so bad at its job that its emails look like spam all the time — into trying to get a law passed that would force email providers to not block their spam as spam.

The more I looked, the more evidence that this is exactly what’s going on. Right before the law was introduced a supposed “coalition” called “Freedom to Connect” was created to specifically push for this law. The website for Freedom to Connect has basically no information (though it does want your personal information — perhaps to send you spam). It just says:

The free exchange of ideas and communication between one another is fundamental to American democracy. As emerging technologies & digital tools engage more voters in America’s political process than ever before. 

We must protect the ability to communicate with one another without the filters of corporations or the media. 

Nowhere does the website say who is behind it, but it’s not difficult to figure out that it’s Targeted Victory. The coalition’s Twitter account initial followers are all… Targeted Victory execs. If you go up the rest of its follower list, its heavily populated with Targeted Victory staff and execs.

When I started looking into the account, it was only following one person… Alex Schriver, an Executive VP at… Targeted Victory.

Perhaps realizing how obvious that was, the account has since followed a bunch of Republican Senators… and three rich dudes who have been engaging in culture wars of late: Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and Marc Andreessen.

Anyway, looking at all this, it is not difficult to conclude that the digital marketing firm that Republicans use all the time was so bad at its job spamming people, that it was getting caught in spam filters. And rather than, you know, not being so spammy, it misrepresented and hyped up a study to pretend it says something it does not, blame Google for Targeted Victory’s own incompetence, and then have its friends in the Senate introduce a bill to force Google to not move its own emails to spam.

True “small government” Republican values about “taking responsibility for your own actions” huh? Or just corrupt swampy nonsense.

If Democrats had any sense at all (lol, I know, I know…) they’d be hyping up how Republicans want to fill all your inboxes with spam…

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Comments on “Is The GOP Pro-Political Spam Bill Driven Entirely By GOP’s Favorite Spam Factory?”

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Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

I am on Parler’s mailing list. GMail really, really wants to label their letters as spam. No matter how many times I marked those letters as “not spam”, it didn’t help. I finally set up a rule preventing any mail from Parler from going to my spam folder. Now they don’t, but the letters still get marked with a big button when I read them, saying they might be spam. When I press the button saying they’re not, the interface takes me back to my inbox, so I have to refind the letter I was reading. And Google still doesn’t allow the Parler app on the Android app store.

Maybe there’s an innocent explanation, but Google sure seems to be going out of its way to nudge me away from reading what Parler has to say. Once again, the “go elsewhere” trope so popular here seems to come with impediments.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Mike Masnick (profile) says:


You are way too quick to read conspiracy into everything, Hyman.

Currently Google is marking all of MY email as spam, because it doesn’t like our email server’s setup. It’s been doing it for about 2 months now, and because of that I can’t even email certain organizations.

Rather than freaking out that Google is out to get me, I recognize that our email server is set up in a not great way, and am in the process of fixing it.

It seems likely that Parler is in a similar boat. It’s not a conspiracy. Except to conspiracy-minded folks who love motivated reasoning.

Anonymous Coward says:

As if people don’t have to check their junk/spam boxes anyway. There is always stuff getting miscategorized by webmail providers, including spam.

It’s like comments being hidden on this very site: No, you were not silenced, and certainly not censored. You don’t get to demand being noticed, though.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re:

I think perhaps Pixelation meant it would be compelled speech on the part of email services. As Wikipedia explains, “Compelled speech is a transmission of expression required by law.” That is certainly what emails would become if legislation were passed to prevent email service providers or anyone else allowing you to use tools to redirect them somewhere you don’t have to pay attention to them.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spamity-Spam! Superlative Spam!

Because receiving something unsolicited is a completely different thing from supporting it

Not necessarily. If I am paying for the hosting and operation of my mail server, and you are using it without paying me in order to send me your junk e-mail, then I am paying the cost for your ad campaign.

Sounds like receiving unsolicited commercial e-mail is in fact supporting the sender.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'... No, no the spam filters are wrong.'

‘Spam filters keep classifying our stuff as spam. The problem clearly can’t be on our end because we’re all such brilliant people and our emails are works of creative glory so it must be on the email providers’ end and if they refuse to accept our vital messages voluntarily the only solution is to force them to do so!’

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

How is this different

Again, I look at my mail box. The physical one. Republicans, Democrats libertarians, Greens…!

The post office must deliver. They don’t put coupons, flyers, and politics in a different box.

No, I’m not for, OR against, this bill. Personally I do my own research on actual factual history on candidates. Not what Fox or CNN say. Not what the fake-news tv adds say. Not the garbage on some flyer.

But, how is digital mail different from physical in that it’s still speech that’s being intentionally misdirected. Which makes me wonder.

I’m not sure a compulsory bill survives 1A. But I’m not sure calling something spam when you are not the recipient does rather.
See, there’s deeper issues for discussion than just the surface chatter.

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