Last Updated on October 27, 2022
Facebook (now known as Meta) was fined nearly $25 million by the state of Washington on Wednesday for repeatedly violating the state’s campaign finance laws. King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North issued the maximum possible fine to Mark Zuckerberg’s company after uncovering several violations of Washington’s political disclosure law. Between 2019 and 2021, the social media giant committed 822 violations.
Each violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000. However, since North found that Meta intentionally violated the law, the fines can be tripled.
North ultimately fined Meta $30,000 for each of the 822 campaign finance violations. According to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the fine is the largest sum ever imposed for such violations in the state.
Ferguson, who brought the case against Meta, requested the maximum fine since his office had previously sued the company for the same violations in 2018.
“I have one word for Facebook’s conduct in this case — arrogance,” Ferguson said Wednesday. “It intentionally disregarded Washington’s election transparency laws. But that wasn’t enough. 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,” Ferguson said. “If Facebook refuses to do this, we will beat them again in court.”
Ferguson is also requesting that its attorneys’ fees be tripled, which would amount to an additional $10.5 million. North is set to rule on that request on a later date.
Washington’s political disclosure law requires ad sellers such as Meta to disclose the names and addresses of political ad buyers, the targets of such ads and the total number of views of each ad, the Seatle Times reported. Ad sellers are required to report the information to anyone that asks for it.
After Ferguson’s office sued Facebook in 2018, the company said it would stop selling ads in the state rather than comply with the law. Google also chose to take similar action. Neither company stopped selling ads, however, and both were fined a total of $200,000.
Ferguson later sued Facebook again in 2020. The company, which decided to rebrand as “Meta” one year later, had previously tried to get the case dismissed by arguing that the transparency law is unconstitutional. Attorneys for Meta argued that the requirement “unduly burdens political speech” and is “virtually impossible to fully comply with.”
Judge North ultimately ruled that the company’s violations were intentional, citing the 2018 case. He further stated that the company has plenty of experience with campaign finance law and noted its “lack of good faith and failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for its violations.”
“Meta not only continued to solicit Washington Political Advertisements, but Meta was aware that its announced ‘ban’ would not, and did not, stop all such advertising from continuing to be displayed on its platform,” North wrote.
While the fine may amount to the largest sum every imposed for a campaign finance violation in Washington, the fee is hardly a drop in the bucket for Meta. Despite recent stock turbulence, the social media giant has reported revenue of nearly $28 billion in the third quarter of this year, and a quarterly profit of $4.39 billion.