Meta Fined $24.7M for Campaign Finance Violations

A state of Washington judge fined Meta — Facebook's parent company — $24.7M on Wednesday after the firm was found to have intentionally breached campaign finance laws hundreds of times.

Meta Fined $24.7M for Campaign Finance Violations
Image credit: Dima Solomin / Unsplash

Facts

  • A state of Washington judge fined Meta — Facebook's parent company — $24.7M on Wednesday after the firm was found to have intentionally breached campaign finance laws hundreds of times.
  • King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North found that Meta violated Washington's Fair Campaign Practices Act 822 times, imposing the $30K maximum penalty for each violation.
  • Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the fine — against Facebook's conduct dating back to 2018 — "represents the largest campaign finance penalty anywhere in the country — ever."
  • Prior to the ruling, Meta objected to the requirements and argued in a summary judgment motion that Washington’s law "unduly burdens political speech" and is "virtually impossible to comply with."
  • The transparency law, passed roughly 50 years ago, requires ad sellers to disclose the names and addresses of those who buy political ads, the target of the ads, and the total number of views of each ad.
  • The Attorney General's office said, "Meta continued to run Washington political ads without maintaining the required information" after previously paying a fine of $238K in 2018, prompting the second lawsuit. Meta will also have to reimburse the attorney general's costs and pay 12% interest per year on the total judgment.

Sources: Axios, News Max, ATG, and US News.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by The Wenatchee World. This wasn't an honest mistake or ignorance about Washington's state laws. Meta was well aware of the requirements and decided to ignore them. Hubris of this kind deserves the maximum penalty.
  • Narrative B, as provided Meta. Meta spends billions of dollars making sure its platforms conform to electoral policies and safeguards — including transparency in political ads. However, Washington's law is almost impossible to comply with given the number of ads run on a social media site as large as Facebook.