Washington State AG Bob Ferguson sues Facebook over political ads

Washington State AG

San Francisco

Washington Attorney General has sued Facebook once again over its political ad policy, saying that the social networking giant violated its own policy and sold more than half a million dollars to political committees in Washington state and failed to follow the law.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has now twice taken legal action against Facebook for similar violations of Washington's law on political advertising.

Ferguson's lawsuit in June 2018 resolved in Facebook paying $238,000 – a $200,000 penalty and an additional $38,000 to reimburse the state's legal costs and fees in December 2018, the AG said in a statement.

Although Facebook said it would stop selling political ads in Washington state after the 2018 lawsuit, Ferguson's office said the company has sold at least 171 ads to political committees in the state for at least $525,000 since November 2018.

Facebook ran these ads without maintaining the legally required information, as our transparency laws require," said the lawsuit.
"Whether you're a tech giant or a small newspaper, those who sell political ads must follow our campaign finance law," Ferguson said.

"Washingtonians have a right to know who's behind the ads seeking to influence their vote."

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, asserts that Facebook hosted hundreds of ads in violation of state law since the time it announced it would stop accepting Washington state political ads.

The complaint asserts that Facebook intentionally violated the state's campaign finance disclosure law, which was first adopted by initiative in 1972 and reenacted and amended multiple times since 1976 by the Legislature.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Hill that the company's policies prohibiting Washington state-targeted ads that apply to state-specific officials, elections and ballot initiatives remain in effect.

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