The state of Washington is suing Facebook and Alphabet Inc for violating campaign finance law. Attorney Bob Ferguson says the pair has failed to disclose ad spending in state elections since 2013, a law in force since the 1970s.
“Defendant Facebook, Inc. (Facebook), an online social media corporation, failed to maintain and make available for public inspection documents and books of account specifying statutorily required information concerning political advertising sponsored through Facebook’s online platform,” reads a court document. On at least two occasions, Facebook failed to provide access to information required by law to members of the public.”
“As a result, the State seeks relief under RCW 42.17A.765, RCW 42.17A.345, and WAC 390-18- 20 050, including civil penalties, costs and fees, and injunctive relief.”
Russian Bots and Stolen Data
Both firms ran ads during the 2016 election cycle, but Facebook has come under far more fire. Though Google has been accused of spreading fake news, Facebook’s role in a worldwide data scandal has put it in the spotlight.
By utilizing the social media’s API, an app developer was able to gain the personal information of 84 million users. This information was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly used messages, posts, page likes, and friends lists to target ads for the Trump campaign.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since been questioned by Congress and the European Union, but both his firm and Google are yet to face severe penalties. It’s unclear how much the pair would stand to pay, but this lawsuit raises important questions about tech giant’s ability to influence public opinion with relatively little oversight.