Washington AG sues Facebook again over political ads

Facebook settled a previous dispute over political ads in the state in 2018.

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The new suit alleges Facebook failed to maintain legally required information on hundreds of ads.

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook is again facing a lawsuit over political ads in Washington state. Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday filed a campaign finance lawsuit against the social media giant, saying the company has failed to maintain legally required information about political ads and to make that information available to the public.

In 2018, Facebook paid $238,000 to solve a previous dispute with Washington state over political ads. The company later said it would stop selling many ads related to state or local elections in Washington, though ads related to "issues of national importance" were still allowed. 

The new suit alleges that Facebook has sold hundreds ads to at least 171 Washington state political committees since November 2018 and failed to maintain legally required information. Facebook does include Washington political ads in its Ad Library, but the lawsuit says the company didn't provide all information required by the state's campaign finance laws, including the address of the person who sponsored the ad, the precise cost and the dates of payment.

"Whether you're a tech giant or a small newspaper, those who sell political ads must follow our campaign finance law," Ferguson said in a release. "Washingtonians have a right to know who's behind the ads seeking to influence their vote."

Facebook says it's taken steps to strengthen its enforcement of ad policies for Washington state and hopes to work with local officials to resolve this issue. 

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