Facebook and Google have settled dual lawsuits with the Washington attorney general over alleged violations of the state’s political advertisement disclosure laws Tuesday, court documents revealed.
Each company agreed to pay $200,000 each plus attorney fees. The combined settlement amounted to $455,500. Neither Google nor Facebook admits violating state laws as part of the settlement.
Beth Gautier, a spokesperson for Facebook, said the company is “pleased that the matter with the Attorney General’s office is resolved,” in a statement.
“We’re working hard to protect election integrity and prevent foreign interference,” she added. “We believe all ads should be transparent on Facebook and aren’t waiting for legislation to authorize political advertisers and house these ads in a public archive.”
Google says that it was in compliance with Washington laws until June, when the state filed its lawsuit. At that time Google says “the state introduced new requirements under its campaign disclosure law.”
“At that point, we paused accepting election advertising in Washington because our systems weren’t built to comply with these new requirements,” a Google spokesperson said. “We’ve rolled out several features this year to ensure transparency in U.S. federal elections and we are looking at ways to bring these tools to the state level as well.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson brought the lawsuits in June after reporting from Seattle newspaper The Stranger revealed the two social media companies were not disclosing information required by Washington state law.
“Whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation, Washington’s political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone,” Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday.
State regulations require companies that sell political advertisements to report who paid for the ad, how much the advertiser spent, the issue or candidate supported by the ad, and the demographics of the audience targeted. The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission voted to uphold those regulations in November.