Earlier in the week, Washington State attorney Bob Ferguson announced his lawsuit against Facebook and Google over political ads. The pair is accused of not disclosing ad spending in state elections since 2013, a violation of state law.
Google has now suspended its political advertising in the state but says it's not directly related to the lawsuit. Instead, it's citing a state law that came into effect on Thursday.
“We take transparency and disclosure of political ads very seriously, which is why we have decided to pause state and local election ads in Washington, starting June 7, while we assess the amended campaign disclosure law and ensure that our systems are built to comply with the new requirements,” said Google spokeswoman Alex Krasov said in an emailed statement to The Seattle Times.
A 40-Year-Old Law
The move comes two days after Ferguson's accusation, and Facebook is yet to take similar action. The emergency rule in question went into force on Thursday, and requires companies like Google to maintain publicly available information about political ads. They must disclose this information in real time, alongside geolocation tags and views. Krasov says Google's systems aren't prepared for this.
However, it's worth noting that the company has allegedly been violating the law to keep detailed records for many years. At this point, it's unclear if that choice was malicious or accidental, but there are at least two cases. Ferguson, for one, isn't buying the excuse.
“Google can attribute their change in policy three days after our lawsuit to whatever they want, but the fact is the new law did not change the definition of commercial advertiser, which voters first approved more than forty years ago,” he said in a statement.
“In the future, if Google decides to accept money for Washington state elections, I will ensure Google complies with our state's longstanding campaign transparency laws.”