In what is thought to be the highest campaign finance punishment in US history, a Washington state judge on Wednesday slapped Facebook parent firm Meta about 25 million US dollars (£21 million) for frequently and knowingly breaking the campaign money disclosure law.
In response to more than 800 infractions of Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, which was enacted by voters in 1972 and later strengthened by the Legislature, King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North imposed the maximum penalty.
The maximum, according to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, was justified in light of the fact that Facebook was previously sued by his agency for breaking the same statute in 2018.
An email requesting comment from Menlo Park, California-based Meta did not receive a prompt response.
According to Washington’s transparency law, ad vendors like Meta are required to keep track of and make public the names and addresses of people who purchase political advertisements as well as the target audience, method of payment, and total number of views for each ad.
Anyone who requests it must receive the information from the ad sellers. Newspapers and television networks have consistently abided by the law.
But Meta has repeatedly objected to the requirements, arguing unsuccessfully in court that the law is unconstitutional because it “unduly burdens political speech” and is “virtually impossible to fully comply with.”