Washington State sues online titans Google, Facebook over political ads

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San Francisco | Published: June 5, 2018 9:26:41 AM

Google and Facebook are among internet firms dealing with criticism and concerns about online platforms being used to spread division and misinformation with the potential to sway elections.

The US state of Washington today announced it was suing Google and Facebook for not abiding by local law requirements regarding keeping records of political ads and their backers. (Reuters)

The US state of Washington today announced it was suing Google and Facebook for not abiding by local law requirements regarding keeping records of political ads and their backers. Campaign finance laws in that state call on ad sellers to keep track of who is behind ads and how much is spent, and make the information available to the public, Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson said in a release. Suits filed in state court accuse Facebook and Google of failing to meet these obligations since the year 2013. “Washington’s political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation,” Ferguson said in the release.

In the last decade, Washington candidates and political committees reported about USD 3.4 million in payments to Facebook and USD 1.5 million to Google related to advertising, according to the state attorney general. Google and Facebook dominate the market for online advertising. Google and Facebook are among internet firms dealing with criticism and concerns about online platforms being used to spread division and misinformation with the potential to sway elections.

Facebook last month said it began implementing a policy requiring labeling and verification of identities of those paying for political messages. The move came in response to criticism over Facebook’s role in allowing disinformation to spread during the 2016 US election, in many cases with the help of automated “bots” or disguised Russian-based accounts.

Facebook said its new handling of political ads has taken hold in the United States on Facebook and Instagram. It intended to implement the same policy worldwide in the coming months “The tools we are introducing set a new standard for transparency in digital advertising,” Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern said in response to an AFP inquiry. “Attorney General Ferguson has raised important questions and we look forward to resolving this matter with his office quickly.” Google did not immediately respond to a query for comment.

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