Facebook parent company fined for campaign finance violations

Associated Press/Tony Avelar
Facebook’s Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on Oct. 28, 2021.

The parent company of Facebook was fined almost $25 million Wednesday for repeatedly and intentionally violating campaign finance laws in Washington state. 

A Washington state judge for the King County Superior Court ruled that Meta must pay the maximum penalty of $24.66 million for more than 800 violations of the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. 

Voters approved the law in 1972 to require total disclosure of all information related to the financing of political campaigns. 

Under the law, ad sellers like Meta must publicize the names and addresses of those who purchase political ads, the ads’ target, how the ads were paid for and the number of views on the ad.

Meta has unsuccessfully argued that the law is unconstitutional because it violates free speech and is “virtually impossible to comply with.” Facebook maintains an archive of political ads that it runs, but it does not include all information that the Washington law requires. 

The Washington state attorney general’s office said in a release that the fine is the largest campaign finance penalty in the country. 

The law normally allows fines up to $10,000 to be issued for each violation, but the court was able to triple the penalty to $30,000 per violation because the conduct was intentional. 

“I have one word for Facebook’s conduct in this case — arrogance,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D). “It intentionally disregarded Washington’s election transparency laws.” 

“But that wasn’t enough,” he continued. “Facebook argued in court that those laws should be declared unconstitutional. That’s breathtaking. Where’s the corporate responsibility? I urge Facebook to come to its senses, accept responsibility, apologize for its conduct, and comply with the law.” 

The state attorney general’s office sued Meta in 2018 for not producing campaign advertising records. Meta was required to pay $238,000 and commit to transparency in campaign finance and advertising. 

But the state said the company continued to run political ads in Washington without keeping the required information, causing Ferguson to sue again in 2020. 

A Meta spokesperson told The Hill that the company is unable to comment on the ongoing litigation.

The company also owns the social media platform Instagram and messaging platform WhatsApp.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:01 p.m.

Tags bob ferguson campaign advertising campaign finance fine campaign finance law Campaign finance law campaign finance transparency Facebook Meta Washington Washington state

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