SEATTLE (CN) – Washington state sued Google and Facebook in state court Monday, claiming the companies violated campaign finance and disclosure laws by failing to obtain and disclose information on who pays for political advertisements.
Google and Facebook didn’t acquire names and addresses of all people who paid for Washington political advertising on their platforms and couldn’t make the information available for public inspection as legally required, according to the pair of complaints filed in King County by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The state’s campaign finance laws requires commercial advertisers maintain information about who purchases political advertising, including the name of the candidate or measure supported or opposed, the date the advertiser purchased the service, the name and address of the person who sponsored the advertising, the total cost of the advertising, who paid for it and what method of payment they used.
The advertisers are also required to make that information available to the public.
Eli Sanders, an editor for the Seattle biweekly newspaper The Stranger, requested some of the required data from both companies but never received the information, according to the complaints.
“Washington’s political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation. Washingtonians have a right to know who’s paying for the political advertising they see,” Ferguson said in a statement.
The attorney general’s office filed the actions in response to a citizen’s complaint in April claiming the companies had not provided any of the legally required information on political advertisements associated with several Washington state campaigns.
“Attorney General Ferguson has raised important questions and we look forward to resolving this matter with his office quickly,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management, said in a statement.