King County Superior Court ruled that not only had the Facebook parent company violated Washington's political ad statutes, but that it had done so intentionally on hundreds of occasions.
Under the law Facebook must maintain records of political campaign ads hosted on their platforms, including costs, sponsors, and targeting information. However, according to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson Facebook's ad library includes some, but not all, of the data Washington state requires it to include.
Ferguson's office has twice sued Meta for not producing appropriate campaign advertising records, with the first suit in 2018 being decided by a consent decree that saw Meta pay out just $238,000.
However, it seems that Meta just continued to run Washington political ads without maintaining the required information," which prompted a second suit in 2020.
Washington state law could fine Meta $10,000 per violation, which can be tripled in this instance as Meta was found guilty of violating the law intentionally.
Meta said that Washington's political speech laws were "onerous" violations of the First Amendment that the state "cannot justify… under heightened scrutiny" It called on the Judge to throw out the law claiming it violated the Communications Decency Act, and that similar laws had been struck down in other jurisdictions.
Meta says that it will appeal its conviction, but it does seem to have a problem with political ad transparency. Despite promising to clean up its act election misinformation continues to circulate on social media platforms.
Google, Twitter, and TikTok have also revealed plans to combat political misinformation ahead of US midterms this November, mostly consisting of stepping up fact checking, deranking content flagged as misinformation, and prompting users to read a link before sharing it.