Judge: Meta Intentionally Violated Campaign Finance Laws

A Washington state court judge ruled last week that Meta intentionally violated campaign finance laws.

In July, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a summary judgment motion arguing that Meta violated the state’s campaign finance transparency law “hundreds” of times.

This law requires campaign advertisers, like Meta, Facebook’s parent company that hosts political ads, to make information about the ads available for public inspection within a reasonable time frame. Ferguson claimed that Meta violated the law repeatedly since December of 2018.

Meta argued that the law is unconstitutional and should be struck down.

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King County Superior Court Judge Douglass A. North disagreed.

A press release from Ferguson’s office detailed the court’s ruling:

“The judge concluded that Meta repeatedly and intentionally violated the law and must pay penalties. The exact amount of penalties will be determined at a later date. Under state law, the court can assess a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. In addition, because Meta’s violations are found to have been intentional, the court may triple the amount of the judgment as punitive damages. By law, campaign finance penalties go to the State Public Disclosure Transparency Account.

The judge also denied Meta’s motion for summary judgment, which asked the court to strike down a key provision of Washington’s decades-old, best-in-the-nation law. Meta tried to strike down the law despite repeatedly stating publicly that it is committed to ‘providing transparency during elections.’”

Ferguson added thanked the court for forcing Meta to “follow the law.”

“We defeated Facebook’s cynical attempt to strike down our campaign finance transparency law,” he said in the release. “On behalf of the people of Washington, I challenge Facebook to accept this decision and do something very simple – follow the law.”

Eli Sanders, a former reporter at The Stranger, a blog in Washington, the judge said Meta tried to hide the truth from the public.

“In essence, the only reason why Meta refuses to comply with the law is, to put it colloquially, they don’t want the public to see how the sausage is made,” the judge reportedly said

“Because it’s a very lucrative business to Meta,” the judge reportedly added. “And if they’ve got to reveal that information there may be less of it and they make less money.”

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