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Facebook Seattle
Facebook’s Seattle office. (GeekWire Photo)

Facebook plans to pause the sale of political ads for state and local races in Washington by the end of the year.

The announcement comes on the heels of a settlement with Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson over political ad disclosures. The AG pursued Facebook and Google after reporting by Seattle newspaper The Stranger revealed that the tech companies were not complying with Washington state’s political ad disclosure requirements.

In June, Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission adopted new rules that require speedier disclosures from companies that sell political ads. Transparency in online political advertising is a hot-button issue following revelations about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Beth Gautier, a spokesperson for Facebook, said the company will “continue to address the Public Disclosure Commission’s new requirements going into effect in the new year.”

Facebook is following in Google’s footsteps. In June, the search engine giant announced it would stop selling ads for political races in Washington state. Neither company provided a timeline for when it might resume political ad sales. It’s the first time Facebook and Google have stopped selling political ads in a state.

“We’re committed to helping protect elections on Facebook and have built tools to authorize advertisers and give people more information about the political ads they see,” Gauthier said.

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.

In the settlement reached with Ferguson, each company agreed to pay $200,000 plus attorney’s fees. The combined settlement amounted to $455,500. Neither Google nor Facebook admitted violating state laws as part of the settlement.

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