Google will make your life worse to placate incompetent Republicans
Loser RNC staffers demand equality of (ISP) outcomes.
When it comes to technology platforms, Democrats and Republicans agree that the engineers at these companies have an evil secret agenda. Democrats think the evil secret agenda is to promote right-wing causes (or at a minimum make money by being totally indifferent to the spread of misinformation or disinformation.) Republicans think that tech engineers are California communists waging a culture war in the discourse by censoring prominent conservative voices and opinions.
In reality, these companies are vast and massive and their primary goal is to raise their stock price. They have secondary goals that are disparate and complicated because they have zillions of employees and competing internal interests. The companies also have massive legal departments that try to stop them from doing things that could jeopardize their tremendous value. Yet if you ask many liberals, there is one man at Facebook who personally decided to sway US elections to Donald Trump. And if you ask many conservatives there are engineers at Twitter going into their tweets and adding typos to embarrass them.
The truth is far less sexy or interesting: the engineers at these companies are not as all-powerful as people think. They screw up a bunch. These things are harder to do than we think.
As internet platforms have become bigger parts of our lives the complaints about them have grown louder. It is important to recognize that these companies are staffed by people who breathe oxygen and drink water and eat food and have feelings and care about things and tell themselves a heroic tale of their own journey and don’t terribly like being blamed for all the problems of the world. So they grapple with them internally. Despite what people think, they are not deaf to complaints. The problem—or one of them anyway—is that their solutions to the problems often make the problems worse, which when you think about it shouldn’t be too surprising since the braying mob of dilettantes probably doesn’t know what it’s talking about.
Sometimes the responses are earnest attempts to grapple with the problem. After 2016, Facebook made some huge changes that attempted to deal with the toxic political effect many said it was having on users. It made the biggest change to its newsfeed algorithm ever. It didn’t work and it also blew a massive hole in the business plan of the journalists who had led calls for it.
Other times the responses are more “please just shut the fuck up already.”
The latter seems to be the current case at Google.
On June 21st, Alphabet asked the FEC for permission to launch a pilot program intended to give politicians and political campaigns priority access to Gmail inboxes, unfettered by Spam filters.
Anyone who has ever spent any time on Gmail must have found this announcement a touch confusing since the last problem it has is a lack of campaign emails. I donated to Barack Obama in 2008 and 14 years later I still get 500 emails from every Democrat in this country every day.
Why would a company whose most famous logo was “don’t be evil” do something so obviously evil?
Because people won’t stop complaining about alleged bias in the spam filter.
Here is how a spam filter works: you give your email to 700,000 things. You get 700,000 emails. You do not want 700,000 emails. You ignore most of them and hope beyond hope to see the few rare ones you do care about. The algorithms use this information to move emails it thinks you don’t want to other secondary folders, the last layer of which is Spam, the realm of ED pills and bitcoin offers.
It’s actually worse than this because the merchants and brands and politicians rent out their own lists so you give your email to 700,000 things and then receive 1,4000,000 emails.
Conservatives believe that Gmail is intentionally suppressing the deliverability of their emails. They think Mr. Google is trying to hurt them. That is ridiculous. If their deliverability is lower than it is for Democrats (as it well may be! I’ll come back to this) that is their own fault. No one at google gives a shit about marginally lowering the efficacy of the RNC’s donation emails. But what people at Google don’t like is having to deal with constant complaints about it and Republicans authoring inane laws meant to address it.
So Google comes up with the idea to just let politicians get past Spam filters. I’m sure lots of politicians will be jazzed about that for a while (at least until every user actually just blows their brains out and can’t give them money anymore).
The problem here is that Google is denigrating the user experience of their actual customers (the users) to placate the bad faith culture war mob of hucksters and charlatans. It is morally hazardous to reward bad behavior like this!
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Calm Down to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.