Undoubtedly, social media has played an instrumental role in recent elections. As it turns out, some of it may have been unlawful.
A Washington State judge ruled that Meta, Facebook's parent company, "repeatedly and intentionally" violated the state's campaign finance transparency laws, Breitbart reported. It will be forced to pay penalties yet to be determined.
King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North ruled Friday that Facebook failed to disclose political ad buyers' names and other data. The suit was brought by Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has doggedly pursued Facebook over violations of the ad transparency statutes that have been on the books since 1972.
"On behalf of the people of Washington, I challenge Facebook to accept this decision and do something very simple — follow the law," he said. The information the company held back included routine disclosures such as ad buyers' names and addresses and information about who was targeted and how often the ads were viewed.
Ferguson called out Facebook on its "cynical attempt" at skirting the laws. The company countered on the basis that Washington's law is an "outlier," that its requirement "unduly burdens political speech," and that the law is "virtually impossible to comply with."
North objected to Facebook's claims and found no evidence that it was unable to do so, but rather than just unwilling. "This is clearly a very appropriate subject for disclosure, and the law is very constitutional," the judge said.
A later hearing will determine how much Facebook is expected to pay. However, the statute stipulates a penalty of $10,000 per violation that triples for intentional violations. Ferguson's office alleges the company has committed hundreds of violations since 2018.
Republicans have claimed for years that campaign finance laws stifle free speech in the political arena. However, that may change now that left-leaning Meta potentially has to shell out several thousands of dollars.