A judge has found that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, intentionally violated campaign finance laws in Washington

A King County Supreme Court judge ruled Friday in favor of campaign finance transparency laws in Washington, dealing a blow to parent company Meta, the parent company of Facebook. At a hearing Friday, Judge Douglas A. North on Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s request for a summary judgment against Meta. Ferguson originally filed the lawsuit in July, saying the company has committed hundreds of willful violations since 2018, according to a press release from Ferguson’s office.

A Washington state judge ruled on Friday that Facebook repeatedly violated campaign finance rules that require platforms to post information about political advertisers on their sites. King Douglas North Supreme Court judge also rejected Facebook’s request to repeal part of the law, dealing a blow to the social media giant’s challenge to some of the nation’s toughest disclosure rules regarding digital political ads, according to the attorney general’s office. .

We have defeated Facebook’s cynical attempt to bring down the Campaign Finance Transparency Act. On behalf of Washington residents, I challenge Facebook to adopt this decision and do one very simple thing: follow the law,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement.

The move comes as Meta faces scrutiny over the amount of information it discloses about how political candidates use social media marketing campaigns. Facebook has long been criticized for allowing political campaigns to personalize their advertising purchases.

The company is also under scrutiny for its decisions to abandon or remove fake news ahead of the 2022 election. Human rights advocates have accused the platform of failing to tackle election-related fake news, including false allegations that the 2020 US presidential election was rigged. At the same time, conservatives say Facebook and other tech companies unfairly condemn right-wing leaders, including former President Donald Trump.

The Campaign Funding Transparency Act has been in effect in Washington since 1972, after it was passed on an initiative. It requires advertisers like Meta to keep records of information about their ads, such as cost and information about targeting and reach. The law also requires advertisers to make this information publicly available. Fines paid are added to the state transparency account, in accordance with state law.

Under state law, Facebook can be fined $10,000 for each violation, which can be tripled if a court finds that the company’s actions were intentional. In 2020, Ferguson sued Facebook, alleging that the social media platform failed to comply with revised 2019 campaign finance disclosure rules for tech platforms. Specifically, the company has been accused of neglecting to keep political advertisers’ names, advertisers’ addresses, specific costs, payment dates, and payment methods in its political advertising library. The lawsuit followed another filing in 2018 that led to a consent decree requiring Facebook to pay $238,000, according to Ferguson’s office. After Facebook continued to run political ads, Ferguson filed a new lawsuit in 2020.

After it was revealed that Russian agents used social media platforms to try to influence the 2016 US presidential election, a bipartisan group of congressmen in Washington introduced a bill to force digital platforms to reveal more information about those who buy political ads. The bill would have required major platforms to create a database of political ads containing information on groups spending money in this area and a description of the target audience. Since then, some technology platforms such as Facebook and Google have released their own ad libraries that reveal information about candidates’ marketing campaigns.

Last year, Facebook announced that it would limit how political and thematic ads are targeted, eliminating the ability, in most cases, to show ads to people based on political, religious or health content. But the company has left other ways to allocate the audience for marketing campaigns.

Source: Attorney General’s Office

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