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Politics

Google cuts election ads in Washington state following lawsuit

The state attorney general sued the search giant and Facebook earlier this week.

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Google says it takes "transparency and disclosure of political ads very seriously."

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Google said it's pausing election ads in Washington starting Thursday while it works to comply with new state regulations that went into effect today. The move comes just days after the state's attorney general alleged the tech giant violated state campaign finance law.

On a list of its ad policies for political content, the company wrote that ads related to ballot measures and candidates for state and local elections in Washington are no longer allowed. 

"We take transparency and disclosure of political ads very seriously which is why we have decided to pause state and local election ads in Washington, starting June 7, while we assess the amended campaign disclosure law and ensure that our systems are built to comply with the new requirements," a Google spokesperson said. The state's Public Disclosure Commission enacted new rules last month that took effect Thursday. 

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday he's seeking injunctions for Google's and Facebook's alleged failures to disclose ad spending in state elections since 2013. Copies of the lawsuits against Facebook and Google are posted on his site. 

"I'm glad to see Google is taking our lawsuit seriously," Ferguson said in an emailed statement Thursday. "In the future, if Google decides to accept money for Washington state elections, I will ensure Google complies with our state's longstanding campaign transparency laws."

Political candidates and groups reported ad payments of about $1.5 million to Google -- along with $3.4 million to Facebook -- in the past 10 years, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Washington state's campaign finance laws require commercial groups selling political advertising to maintain information about those who buy it, and the advertisers are required to make that information available to the public.

First published June 7, 9:54 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:25 a.m. PT: Adds comment from State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.