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Washington State News

AG Ferguson Seeks Maximum $24.6M Penalty Against Facebook Parent Meta

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today he has filed a motion seeking the maximum penalty of $24.6 million against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, over its 822 intentional violations of Washington’s campaign finance transparency law.
On Oct. 6, King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North ruled that Meta violated Washington law 822 times, and that its violations were intentional. Because the violations were intentional, it allows the court to triple the penalty, for a maximum of $30,000 per violation. By law, campaign finance penalties go to the State Public Disclosure Transparency Account.
At a Sept. 2 hearing, Judge North rejected assertions by Meta that complying with the law was too burdensome, saying: “The only … information that has to be made available is the information that Meta is already collecting. They necessarily collect it in order to be able to run the ads that they’re running. So all they have to do in order to display it is essentially press a button.”
“We have penalties for a reason,” Ferguson said. “Facebook is a repeat, intentional violator of the law. It’s a sophisticated company. Instead of accepting responsibility and apologizing for its conduct, Facebook went to court to gut our campaign finance law in order to avoid accountability. If this case doesn’t warrant a maximum penalty, what does?”
This law requires campaign advertisers, including entities such as Meta that host political ads, to make information about Washington political ads that run on their platforms available for public inspection in a timely manner. The state asserted that Meta violated the law repeatedly since December 2018 and committed hundreds of violations.
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 Attorney General’s campaign finance enforcement has in recent years resulted in two other findings of intentional violations: One against the Consumer Brands Association, formerly known as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, totaling $9 million, the other against initiative promoter Tim Eyman for $2.6 million.