Aletho News


Gmail’s Czech Election Campaign Interference

By Přemysl Janýr | February 5, 2023

On 18 January, a few days before the presidential election, I received an email from a non-political group of friends with an anti-Babiš pamphlet. I replied with an anti-Petr picture that I had received shortly before. Out of a group of forty recipients, seven emails were returned to me as undeliverable because “This message does not pass authentication checks” (SPF and DKIM both 5.7.26 do not pass).

This has never happened to me in decades of assiduous email communication. From time to time some mail is undeliverable, the address no longer exists, it has overflowed, etc., but so far no one has ever blocked the delivery of my message and withal to such an extent. I checked all seven error messages, all of them addresses. So a few minutes later I sent out another email to the group informing that was blocking Petr Pavel’s picture. It was delivered to all of them, including the seven.

So the difference in deliverability was clearly not related to authentication requirements, but to Petr Pavel’s picture. I pasted it directly into the email body without any comment, not as an attachment. I don’t know how long it had been circulating on the Internet, but knew it, recognizes it in emails by the content, and takes it into account in its algorithms to determine which messages to deliver to its clients and which to hide from them. Gmail is owned by the US corporation Google. And since Czech elections have to be irrelevant to it from a business point of view, it is obviously accommodating other entities for which they are not irrelevant. Of course, someone familiar with the Czech conditions had to evaluate Petr Pavel’s picture for them.

Mail, like a letter or any verbal or telephone conversation, is a private communication between two or more persons. The censorship of content described is analogous to the post office unsealing letters and deciding whether to deliver them based on their content. Or to a telephone provider listening to what you are talking about and cutting the connection if the subject matter is inappropriate. According to Czech law, it is a criminal offence.

This is compounded by the delicate fact that our private communications concerned electoral preferences, and that was apparently disturbed not by a pamphlet disparaging Andrej Babiš, but by a picture disparaging Petr Pavel. This corresponds to a manipulation of the Czech election campaign by a foreign entity in favour of one of the candidates. And if we consider that Google offers not only an e-mail server, but also a virtually monopolistic search portal and a number of other services used by Czech citizens, it can covertly influence electoral preferences to a considerable extent. Even this is a criminal offence.

On the same day, I filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor and a notification of election manipulation with the Ministry of the Interior. I published both submissions, including the suppressed image, in a posting on my blog and sent out a notice to my readers with a link, but forgot to release the posting before doing so. The notifications reached all recipients without any problems.

In no time, the first responded that the posting was unavailable. I immediately corrected that and sent out the notification again with an apology. Twenty addresses on denied the delivery. I sent another email to those affected informing them that they had not received the link to the posting together with a link to my blog where they could find it. It went through to all twenty.

Thus over a course of hours, I‘ve accumulated a lot of material to analyze. In the first case, recognized the suppressed image in the message body. In the second, it had to double-check the contained link and determine that the image was located at the destination address.

A statistical recap:

– I sent a total of 220 emails to recipients on 90 of them contained the suppressed image or a link to the posting where it was used.

– Of the emails with the image or link, 27 were undeliverable.

– All emails without the image or link, including those to “undeliverable” addresses, were delivered without issue.

Thus, the dependence of delivery on content is evident, but at the same time, also delivered most of the emails with a link to my posting. So how is the decision actually made?

I sent out the notification in five batch emails. So I listed the recipients and marked those undelivered. In fact, the censorship affected only one of the five emails and consistently blocked all twenty addresses contained. So apparently the censorship check is done randomly. If I add the original email with the picture, which just as consistently blocked all of the addresses, only two, or one-third, of the six emails were censored. So if you get mail returned to a recipient on with the reasoning that it doesn’t meet the authentication requirements, it will probably bypass censorship when resent.

If the reader is communicating with friends about topics that may contain a critical political charge, I can only recommend that he use a mail server other than Out of over a hundred servers, it is the only one I have encountered this behavior on.

February 5, 2023 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | ,

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