Apr 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Washington state sues Facebook over political ads

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announces

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

The state of Washington sued Facebook on Tuesday, saying that the social network continues to sell political advertising in the state despite an agreement not to do so.

Why it matters: While Facebook continues to accept political advertising in most places, it had said it would stop selling such ads in Washington rather than comply with the state's strict disclosure law.

Details: Washington has a law that requires companies that sell political ads in the state to keep a variety of information on each ad, including the candidate or measure in question, who paid for the ad, the name and address of the advertising's sponsor, and the total cost of the advertising.

  • According to the lawsuit, which was posted on Seattle-area tech news site GeekWire, Washington claims Facebook sold ads to at least 171 political committees in Washington state, generating at least $525,000 in revenue.
  • For its part, Facebook said its policies prohibit ads targeted to users in Washington state that relate to state or local issues and candidates and expressed hope that it can resolve the issue.

History lesson: Facebook settled a previous lawsuit in 2018, agreeing to pay a $238,000 fine. Washington also settled a separate suit with Google around the same time.

  • Facebook has been criticized since for not properly enforcing its ban, such as in last year's Seattle City Council race, where one candidate managed to place Facebook ads while at least one of her opponents was blocked from doing so.

Go deeper: Facebook and Google's past show banning political ads is hard work

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