Washington AG Filed Lawsuit against Facebook over Political Ads

On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Attorney General (AG) of Washington filed a second lawsuit against Facebook Inc. (Facebook) over political ads arguing that the social media giant had failed once again to make disclosures as required by the finance law-governed in the state.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook had faced a similar case in 2018 but resolved the issues over political advertising in the state of Washington with a financial settlement of $238,000.

Facebook Violated the Ads Policy

Last year, the US-based social media platform, Facebook had announced that it would stop accepting or showing political ads related to state or local initiatives in Washington. However, the platform had yet permitted political advertisements around “issues of national importance” by targeting people in the state.

Washington AG, Bob Ferguson said in a statement on Tuesday, “Facebook had continued selling hundreds of ads to at least 171 state political committees since 2018, in violation of its own policy.”

Ferguson claimed that the company’s Ad Library, a searchable database aimed at providing transparency around political advertising, failed to provide detailed information regarding those who were paying for the ads. According to the law under Washington State, it was required to provide the details of the person and the payment made for the political ads to the social media platform.

Various social media companies, sharing more information about political advertising, have intensified their operations after the US intelligence agencies found that Russia targeted American voters with social media content, including ads, to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. Russia had earlier denied the allegations.

Facebook’s Poor Database Maintenance

Facebook’s Ad Library has been making efforts to be more transparent about its role in elections, and the company often defended its position by denying the attack by several critics who claimed that it had not filtered or conducted fact-check of the political ads requested to the media platform. Moreover, researchers and analysts criticized that the company’s database was poorly maintained and failed to provide detailed targeting data.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company aimed to work with regulatory authorities in Washington and helped to resolve the concerned issues.

Various rivalries including Google, Twitter, and Snap have also started launching similar advertising libraries in recent years, while Reddit made its new entry in such a project this week. The new media platforms have, meanwhile, promised to impose tougher rules around misleading information by political ads.

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