Gmail Filters Black Lives Matter Emails

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Gmail Filters Black Lives Matter Emails
Short Title Gmail Filters Black Lives Matter Emails Into Promotions Tab
Location Global
Date June 2020

Solove Harm Exclusion, Decisional Interference
Information Contact, Communication, Preference, Behavioral
Threat Actors Google

Affected Gmail users
High Risk Groups Ethnic Minority
Tangible Harms

Gmail was found to be filtering mass emails about racial injustice by automatically categorizing them into Promotions tab and making them less visible.


In June 2020 there were protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world.

Gmail’s algorithm responsible for filtering the incoming emails between Primary and Promotions tabs was found to be treating emails from advocacy and political groups referring to racial justice issues like marketing emails.

By default, Gmail places email in three inbox tabs: primary, which is visible when a user signs in, social, for messages from social networks, and promotions. It also sends some messages to spam.

One experiment showed, that of the emails referring to racial justice received since George Floyd was killed in May 2020, Gmail sent seven in 10 to the less-visible “promotions” tab, which the company says is for “deals, offers, and other marketing emails.” Such categorisation of inbox mail can be seen as Exclusion.

Making some emails less likely to be read by filtering them can also be interpreted as Decisional Interference.

Gmail shuffling mass emails about racial justice into the marketing tab mirrors its categorization of political emails, which was discovered in early 2020.

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