Washington AG Seeks To Fine Meta $25 Million Over Political Ads

Facebook parent Meta should be fined nearly $25 million for “repeatedly and intentionally” violating a state campaign-finance disclosure law, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson argues.

Meta “has spent years blatantly disregarding Washington’s Commercial Advertiser Law and making empty promises of transparency,” the attorney general's office writes in papers filed last week with King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North. “The time has come to hold Meta accountable.”

Last month, North ruled that Facebook committed 822 violations of a Washington law requiring companies that accept political ads to make information about them publicly available.

The judge noted that three people -- including journalist Eli Sanders, who has reported extensively on online political advertising -- requested information from Facebook about political ads.

“Meta never provided all of the required information in response to any of these requests,” North wrote. “In the instances that Meta provided some information beyond what is publicly available in the Ad Library, Meta's response often took weeks or months and was incomplete when provided.”

The ruling came in Ferguson's 2020 lawsuit alleging that Facebook not only violated the state's transparency law, but also reneged on a prior promise to stop accepting political ads in the state.

The complaint alleged that since November of 2018, Facebook sold hundreds of ads to at least 171 Washington state political committees, which paid a total of at least $525,000 for these ads. Facebook allegedly failed to make information about those ads publicly available.

That lawsuit marked the second time Ferguson sued Facebook over political ads. The previous case settled in 2018, when Facebook agreed to pay more than $200,000 and vowed to stop accepting political ads in the state.

Ferguson's office is now asking North to hand down the maximum fine of $30,000 per violation, citing the company's “intentional pattern of non-compliance.”

“Meta has demonstrated both a flouting of Washington’s interests in election transparency and a disdain of Meta’s own legal obligations,” his office writes. “It is apparent that the maximum penalty is needed to compel Meta’s compliance with Washington law.”

Next story loading loading..