Meta Allegedly Ordered To Pay $10.5 Million Over Washington State Legal Fees

Meta Platforms, Inc., doing business as Meta and formerly named Facebook, Inc., and TheFacebook, Inc., is an American multinational technology conglomerate based in Menlo Park, California. The company owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, among other products and services.

Meta is out almost $35.5 million dollars following the loss of a campaign finance lawsuit filed by Washington state.

A judge in King County, Washington has ruled that the Facebook parent company has to pay $10.5 million in legal fees to the state and almost $25 million due to “repeated and intentional violations of campaign finance disclosure laws,” according to NBC News.

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That $25 million is thought to be the biggest campaign finance fine ever in America, per The Seattle Times, for over 800 violations of Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. The fines for legal fees came later, on Friday. Meta is required to pay the state Public Disclosure Commission within 30 days. The agency imposes campaign finance laws.

Washington’s transparency law was passed in 1972, and television stations and newspapers have abided by the law for years—but Meta was not. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in court that the maximum fine was fitting since Facebook had faced the same lawsuit in 2018, filed by his office.

North ordered the company to pay by wire transfer, or by check or money order, within 30 days. The money will go to the state Public Disclosure Commission, which enforces campaign finance laws, per the Seattle Times.

After a lengthy legal battle, North earlier this week slapped the social media giant with the maximum fine allowed under state law, finding the company had intentionally violated Washington’s political disclosure law 822 times between 2019 and 2021.

The Washington law, created by voters in a 1972 initiative, requires sellers of political ads to disclose names and addresses of ad buyers, as well as the targets of the ads and number of views for each ad. The information must be made available to anyone who asks for it.

Other sellers of political ads, including television stations and newspapers, have had to abide by the Washington requirements for decades. But Meta has repeatedly sold such ads while failing to abide by the requirements.

Ferguson earlier sued Facebook and Google in 2018 for violations of the law. The companies agreed to pay fines of $200,000 and said they would stop selling political ads in Washington.

But Facebook continued to sell political ads here, without making available the required information, leading Ferguson to sue the company again in 2020.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company had tried to have the case thrown out, arguing Washington’s transparency law is unconstitutional and “virtually impossible to fully comply with.” But North rejected those arguments.

Ferguson this week — even prior to the legal-fee ruling — said the penalty in the Meta case is believed to be the largest ever issued in a campaign-finance case in the country.

Ferguson on Wednesday called the tech giant’s conduct in Washington arrogant.

“It intentionally disregarded Washington’s election transparency laws. But that wasn’t enough. Facebook argued in court that those laws should be declared unconstitutional. That’s breathtaking. Where’s the corporate responsibility?” he said.

Meta, one of the world’s highest-valued companies, reported revenue Wednesday of nearly $28 billion in the third quarter of this year, and a quarterly profit of $4.39 billion.

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Sources: NBC News, Seattle Times

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