US Court Resoundingly Punishes Facebook for Election Violations
(RightWing.org) – Over the last several years, social media companies received criticism over the political content they allowed on their platforms and for censoring conservative candidates. Regardless, Facebook is a business, and it’s one of the most lucrative ones in the world. But that fact doesn’t make it immune to state laws.
Across the country, each state has its own unique campaign finance laws. In the northwest, Washington passed a campaign transparency law in 1972. On Wednesday, October 26, a state court severely punished Meta, Facebook’s parent company, for violating the law hundreds of times.
Washington State Punishes Facebook for Election Violations
In 1972, voters in Washington State passed an initiative to make political ad purchases more transparent. It requires ad sellers to make the names and addresses of ad buyers, the targets of the ads, and the total views of each ad available to anyone who asks for the data. For decades, television stations and newspapers complied with state law.
In 2018, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Facebook and Google for failing to follow the law. Both companies said they would stop selling political ads rather than comply with the requirement. Yet, they didn’t and paid $200,000 in fines that same year.
In 2020, Ferguson sued Meta again. Between 2019 to 2021, three people asked for data about political ads it sold on the platform. On Wednesday, King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North ruled the massive tech giant intentionally broke the law 822 times from 2019 to 2021. He stated the mammoth company refused to give the requestors what they asked for as required by law. Instead, they got incomplete, redacted information weeks or months after the request.
North fined Meta the maximum penalty of $30,000 for each infraction, totaling $24.7 million. The judge also said the corporation must pay attorney fees and costs and tripled the amount as punitive damage because it purposefully violated the state measure. The AG’s office is asking for $10.5 million, which will be decided at another time. That’s not all… North also stated the company must pay 12% interest on the amount of the judgment, starting from the payment due date. Additionally, it must come into compliance within 30 days.
AG Challenges Meta
Ferguson said Facebook behaved arrogantly and purposefully ignored Washington’s campaign transparency law. Making matters worse, he noted in court how the tech giant argued the judge should declare the law unconstitutional. The judge refused Meta’s motion to strike down parts of the law in September. Also, the AG asked why the company wasn’t accepting any corporate responsibility for its actions.
The attorney general said Facebook should come to its senses, apologize, and follow the law. If not, Ferguson stated he would take it to court and win again. His office stated it was the largest campaign finance penalty in the history of the country.
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