Meta Fined Nearly $25 Million for Violating Campaign Financing Law
A court has hit Facebook’s parent company with a massive fine after a judge found it guilty of hundreds of campaign finance violations. The case goes back to 2018, when Facebook first faced lawsuits for breaking election laws.
Election finance transparency laws require any organization selling space for political ads to keep proper records. They must store details, including the identities of those buying ads, how they paid and how many views each ad got, and make the information available to anyone who asks for it.
Lawmakers wrote Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act in 1972 for traditional media; newspapers and TV stations have complied with it ever since. However, Facebook decided the rules didn’t apply to its digital format. The company did keep an archive of the ads it ran, but it didn’t include most of the mandatory data.
On October 26, the Superior Court in King County, Washington, found Meta guilty of 822 violations. The company argued against the law’s constitutionality because it puts a burden on free speech and is difficult to comply with, but Judge Douglass North rejected the defense and fined Meta $24,660,000.
Washington AG Bob Ferguson said the high fine — three times the usual maximum — was appropriate because the state had fined the company $238,000 for exactly the same offense in 2018, leaving no doubt the violations were intentional. Meta earned $4.4 billion in the third quarter of 2022, so even this monster fine won’t harm it much, but it’s always possible tech companies will realize they must obey the same laws as the rest of us.