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Facebook Fined $25 Million for Campaign Law Violations

Facebook's parent company Meta was fined some $25 million on Wednesday after a judge ruled that the company had racked up more than 800 violations of a Washington state campaign transparency law that's been on the books since the 1970s. 

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For Meta's repeated violation of Washington law, a county superior court judge ruled that the tech company must pay the maximum possible fine under the statute on a whopping 822 violations for a total of more than $24.6 million.

Meta's attorneys argued in court that Washington's state law was violating the company's First Amendment rights and that it was incongruent with Section 230 protections on platforms such as Meta, but the judge didn't buy those claims.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson called out the "arrogance" of Facebook's parent company, which he first filed suit against in 2020. According to the AG's office, Ferguson's win means Meta now must pay what is "the largest campaign finance penalty ever issued anywhere in the country," The Seattle Times noted. Meta's total judgement comes after the judge tripled the usual $10,000-per-offense penalty because this wasn't Meta's first time facing legal action for violating state law. 

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In 2018, AG Ferguson also sued Facebook — predating the Meta name — for breaching the same campaign transparency law that requires entities selling political ads to disclose information on who buys ads, who's being targeted with the ad, and how many times the ad is eventually seen. The Seattle Times reported at the time that Facebook said it would stop selling political ads in Washington instead of disclosing information required by the law. But they didn't. 

Judge Douglass North, in ordering the $25 million penalty for Meta, slammed the company's "lack of good faith and failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for its violations." North also explained that he found the company was acting intentionally — given they were sued for previous violations in 2018 and subsequently said they would stop selling political ads in the state but continued to break the law — and should have known better due to Meta's significant activity in political advertising.

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The AG said Facebook, now Meta, "intentionally disregarded Washington's election transparency laws," according to The Seattle Times. "I urge Facebook to come to its senses, accept responsibility, apologize for its conduct and comply with the law. If Facebook refuses to do this, we will beat them again in court," Ferguson pledged, hinting that an appeal by Meta could be yet to come.  


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