Gifted one-on-one time with four of the most powerful tech executives in the world, Republican Congressman Greg Steube of Florida decided to grill Google CEO Sundar Pichai about Gmail’s spam folders.
We’ve all had issues with spam folders, but Steube suggested to Pichai that his campaign emails getting sent to spam was part of a nefarious anti-conservative plot.
Pichai and three other major tech CEOs —Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Apple’s Tim Cook — testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, commercial, and administrative law on Wednesday.
After first complaining about not being able to Google the far-right website Gateway Pundit, Steube spent much of his allotted five minutes on Gmail’s spam folder.
Steube claimed that when he transitioned from state politics to Congress, suddenly people couldn’t get his campaign emails.
“My parents, who have a Gmail account, aren’t getting my campaign emails,” he told Pichai. “My supporters, just last week, one of my supporters called me and said, ‘Hey, I just want you to know this, that my Gmail account suddenly is taking your campaign emails that I’ve received for almost 10 years and suddenly they’re going to spam and junk folders.”
Not taking a moment to actually ask a question, Steube quickly pivoted from troubleshooting his parents’ email to alleging a plot against conservatives.
“This is — appears — to only be happening to conservative Republicans,” Steube said. “I don’t see anything in the news, or anything in the press, or other members on the other side of the aisle talking about their campaign emails getting thrown into junk folders in Gmail. So my question is: Why is this only happening to Republicans?”
Pichai, for his part, calmly shot down the idea that there was a conspiracy against Republican emails.
“We are focused on what users want and users have indicated they want us to organize personal emails — emails they receive from friends and family — separately,” the Google CEO said. “All we have done is, we have a tabbed organization, and the primary tab has email from friends and family, and the secondary tab has other notifications.”
Rep. Steube now asking the Google CEO tech support questions on behalf of his dad (not a joke)
— rat king (@MikeIsaac) July 29, 2020
Greg Steube doesn’t know how to use a computer
— Jordan Zakarin (@jordanzakarin) July 29, 2020
Steube, seemingly not understanding that perhaps his campaign email was pushed to a different tab because it wasn’t from a personal account, questioned why his own father wouldn’t get a campaign email if family messages go to the primary tab.
“Well, it was my father who was not receiving now my campaign emails. So clearly that familial thing that you’re talking about didn’t apply to my emails,” Steube said.
Pichai responded by explaining that Gmail’s systems likely had no way of knowing his father was related to the candidate in a campaign email.
The Markup actually investigated how Gmail sorts political messages in February. Its review found that just 11 percent landed on the primary tab, while half went to “promotions,” and about 40 percent went to “spam.”
“We found that Gmail often puts political email into the Promotions folder, which it says is for marketing,” The Markup reporter Adrianne Jeffries wrote on Twitter. “But there was no partisan pattern.”
Rep. Steube says Gmail is censoring Republican email.
We actually did an investigation on this in February.
We found that Gmail often puts political email into the Promotions folder, which it says is for marketing. But there was no partisan pattern.https://t.co/ZZiAVr3tX6
— Adrianne Jeffries (@adrjeffries) July 29, 2020
For what it’s worth, the representative who spoke after Steube, Florida Democrat Val Demings, noted Republicans definitely weren’t alone in their spam folder woes.
“Just for the record, I’m a Democrat from Florida, and I’ve heard complaints about my emails going into spam as well,” Demings said.