Meta fined $24.7M for campaign finance disclosure violations
The fine is “the largest campaign finance-related penalty ever imposed in the United States," according to a Washington state judge.
A Washington state judge fined Facebook's parent company, Meta, nearly $25 million for willfully violating campaign finance disclosure laws on multiple occasions.
King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North imposed the maximum penalty on Wednesday. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued that the maximum penalty was appropriate because he had previously sued Facebook for violating the same law in 2018.
Washington's transparency law requires ad sellers such as Meta to disclose the names and addresses of those who purchase political advertisements, as well as the target of such advertisements and the total number of views received by each ad.
Meta has raised an objection to the requirements. Ferguson called the fine "the largest campaign finance-related penalty ever imposed in the United States."
However, Meta has repeatedly argued in court that the requirements are unconstitutional because they "unduly burden political speech" and are "virtually impossible to fully comply with."
While Facebook does keep an archive of political advertisements that run on the platform, the archive does not contain all of the information required by Washington law.
“I have one word for Facebook’s conduct in this case — arrogance,” Ferguson said in a news release.
“It intentionally disregarded Washington’s election transparency laws. But that wasn’t enough. Facebook argued in court that those laws should be declared unconstitutional. That’s breathtaking. Where’s the corporate responsibility?"
Following Ferguson's initial lawsuit in 2018, Facebook agreed to pay $238,000 and commit to greater transparency in campaign finance and political advertising. Instead of complying with the requirements, it later stated that it would stop selling political advertisements in the state.
Despite this, the company continued to sell political advertisements, and Ferguson sued again in 2020.
Each violation of the law is typically punishable by up to $10,000 in fines, but penalties can be tripled if a judge determines it was done on purpose.
Meta was fined $30,000 for each of its 822 violations, totaling $24.7 million. Ferguson called the fine "the largest campaign finance-related penalty ever imposed in the United States."
Meta, one of the world's wealthiest companies, reported $4.4 billion in quarterly earnings, or $1.64 per share, on revenue of nearly $28 billion in the three months that ended Sept. 30.
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