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Did Google and Facebook Violate Campaign Advertising Disclosure Law?

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to a recently filed lawsuit, the Washington state attorney general alleges that Google and Facebook both failed to comply with the state's campaign advertising disclosure laws.

Primarily, the complaint alleges that the companies did not maintain and disclose records for who paid for campaign related advertisements. These are serious charges in today's tense political climate where espionage is actually prime time news (depending on where you get your news). In response to the lawsuit, the companies have both issued statements about striving for full transparency and cooperating with the AG's office.

Clandestine Campaign Ads

The lawsuit details some rather curious facts, including the millions of dollars the two companies received for political advertising. An editor for the Seattle newspaper, The Strange, requested the information and did not receive it. Another individual also sought records, and like the newspaper editor, tried to go through proper channels and was still denied.

Each complaint, which can be found linked to the AG's press release, details the large sums of money each company was receiving annually for political ads. The press release also explains that state law requires all advertisers, large and small, to allow the public to inspect their political advertiser records for certain information.

Transparency for Political Advertising

Given all the scandals over fake news, both Google and Facebook are seeking to avoid negative PR incidents here. Making matters worse for Facebook, the company is still dealing with the backlash from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

For the social media giant's part, it announced a new public database where anyone will be able to see who paid for political advertisements on their platform. It believes this form of transparent public record keeping for this type of data will become the new standard. While Google also issued a statement that the company is committed to transparency for political advertising, it has not gone into further detail at this time.

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