Facebook’s parent company, Meta, was hit with a punishment of roughly $25 million on Wednesday for breaking Washington state’s political financing regulations.
According to the court records, between 2019 and 2021, Meta broke Washington’s political disclosure legislation 822 times. The maximum fine for each incident, up to $30,000, was issued by Judge Douglass North of the King County Superior Court.
According to an article in The Seattle Times, political ad providers like Meta are required by Washington’s election transparency regulations to “disclose the names and addresses of political buys, the targets of such advertising, and the total number of viewers for each ad.” According to North, Meta broke the rules on purpose, even though they’d been in existence since 1972.
According to the Times’ story, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who initially filed the complaint against Meta, described Facebook’s behavior in the case as “arrogant.”
The law “deliberately violated” Washington state’s election transparency laws, Ferguson claimed. “But alas, that wasn’t sufficient. In court, Facebook contended that the regulations in question should be overturned because they violate fundamental rights. Seriously, that’s amazing.”
Meta was instructed in the action to “come into full compliance” with the state’s election transparency regulations within the next 30 days, which includes paying the fines and submitting the necessary paperwork. In addition, the court ordered Meta to submit a sworn certificate within 30 days attesting to the fact that it complied with the injunction.
According to the Times, the court also ordered the corporation to pay Ferguson’s $10.5 million in attorney expenses, which Ferguson had sought be treble. The exact amount of the attorney’s fees will be determined at a later date by North.
In 2018, Ferguson filed a $200,000 suit against Meta for violating disclosure requirements. According to a story from The New York Times, Meta (then known as Facebook) announced that it will cease selling political ads in Washington rather than comply with state legislation.
In 2020, after a report indicated that Meta was still selling political ads in violation of state restrictions, Ferguson launched a second lawsuit against the firm.
In a motion filed in July, Ferguson claimed that between 2019 and 2021, Meta failed to reply to many requests for inspection relating to political advertisements placed on Meta’s platform in Washington.
In September 2021, after multiple complaints were submitted with the state Public Disclosure Commission, Executive Director Peter Lavallee referred to Ferguson for possible legal action.
In the spring, Meta also filed a motion requesting the court to invalidate the rules governing commercial marketers. According to the Times, the restrictions “unduly burden political speech” and are “nearly difficult to comply with” for the social media giant. On September, North declined Meta’s request.
Meta’s director of public affairs, Rachel Holland, told Newsweek that the business could not provide any further comment due to pending litigation.