Facebook’s parent company Meta has been ordered to pay Washington state $10.5 million (nearly Rs. 86 crore) in legal fees and a fine of nearly $25 million (nearly Rs. 200 crores) for repeatedly and willfully violating campaign finance disclosure laws.
King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North ordered the court fees Friday, two days after hitting the social media giant with what is believed to be the largest campaign finance fine in U.S. history, The Seattle Times reported.
North ordered the company to pay by wire transfer, check, or money order within 30 days. The money is supposed to go to the state Disclosure Commission, which enforces campaign finance laws.
North imposed the maximum fine allowed for more than 800 violations of Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, which was passed by voters in 1972 and later strengthened by the Legislature. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued that the maximum was reasonable given that his office sued Facebook in 2018 for violating the same law.
Meta, based in Menlo Park, Calif., did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, the newspaper said.
The company previously said it was assessing its options in light of the decision.
The Washington Transparency Act requires ad sellers like Meta to store and disclose the names and addresses of those who buy political ads, the target of such ads, how the ads were paid for, and the total number of views of each ad. Ad sellers must provide this information to anyone who requests it. TV stations and newspapers followed the law for decades.
However, Meta has repeatedly protested the requirements, unsuccessfully arguing in court that the law is unconstitutional because it “unduly burdens political speech” and is “virtually impossible to fully comply with.” While Facebook maintains an archive of political ads that run on the platform, the archive does not release all the information required by Washington law.
In 2018, after Ferguson’s first lawsuit, Facebook agreed to pay $238,000 (almost 2 million rupees) and pledged to be transparent about campaign finance and political advertising. She subsequently stated that she would rather stop selling political ads in the state than comply with the demands.
Still, the company continued to sell political ads, and Ferguson sued again in 2020.
Meta, one of the world’s richest companies, on Wednesday reported a quarterly profit of $4.4 billion (nearly Rs 36,200 crore) or $1.64 (nearly Rs 130 crore) per share on revenue of nearly $28 billion (nearly Rs 2,30,400 crore rupees). , in the three-month period that ended September 30.
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