Washington has filed a lawsuit against Facebook and Google over their inability to show their records on who purchased political ads on the platform. The two companies were reportedly paid millions for political ads but have failed in publishing key information, like the advertiser's address, that's required by law.
Washington legislation mandates that advertisers collate and store key information on political ads, including the advertiser or buyer's name and address, cost of the ad, and the candidate's name, party or the proposal that's being opposed or supported.
The lawsuits have been filed by the Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General of Washington State. Ferguson stated in a press release that “Washingtonians have a right to know who's paying for the political advertising they see.”
Six months ago I asked Facebook and Google to disclose local political ad data, as required by law. They didn't. Today, the Washington State Attorney General sued them. https://t.co/7ire0ASb0L
— Eli Sanders (@elijsanders) June 4, 2018
Washington law states that anyone has the right to visit an advertiser and ask for information regarding political ads. The lawsuit claims that both Facebook and Google did not or could not provide this information when a reporter requested them. As a matter of fact, the two companies have not complied with this law since 2013. Now the Attorney General is thinking of levying fines and injunctions against the two corporations.
The lawsuits filed by the Attorney General are noteworthy as they follow on the heels of increased criticism regarding the involvement of technology companies in perceived election manipulation and the dissemination of “fake news.”
Facebook and Google have already taken steps to manage this problem. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg's company will establish a political ads archive and will reportedly label all such advertisements. Google is also set to develop an online archive of political ads that ran on its platform. Facebook is also now demanding identity verification for all issue-based and election advertisements. However, it seems these measures are not enough and the general public remains skeptical that they will make a difference.
The two companies have been given 20 days to reply to the lawsuit filed by the state of Washington.
Rob Leathern, Facebook's Director of Product Management, has revealed that the company is introducing tools that will “set a new standard for transparency in digital advertising.” He also added that Attorney General Ferguson has asked crucial questions and that Facebook is looking forward “to resolving this matter with his office quickly.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Google stated that the company is “committed to transparency and disclosure in political advertising” and that they're already reviewing the complaint and will soon be coordinating with the office of the Attorney General.[Featured image via Pixabay]