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James Damore
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McKenna: Google, Facebook probably didn’t violate law purposely

(File, AP)

It’s unlikely that Google and Facebook were ignorant of the campaign finance laws they are now being sued over. It’s also unlikely the tech companies were purposely covering anything up, former state Attorney General Rob McKenna says.

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“They just never thought of themselves in the same way as a TV or radio station would, even though they’ve been selling political ads for many years now.”

Current state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit against Google and Facebook on Monday, June 4. Ferguson claims the companies didn’t maintain legally required information for state political advertising published on their platforms since 2013.

Under state law, commercial advertisers that sell political advertising are required to maintain information about those who purchase it. That information must be publicly available. Washington candidates and political committees reported approximately $3.4 million in payments to Facebook and $1.5 million to Google.

The Attorney General’s Office received notices in April that Facebook and Google were not providing any legally required information on political advertisements.

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Google stopped running state and local election ads in Washington, GeekWire reports. The company said it wants to comply with a new law targeting digital platforms, but “its systems aren’t prepared for the rules as implemented,” GeekWire reports. The new rule, approved by Gov. Jay Inslee in March, went into effect Thursday. It states that digital platforms that offer political ads must disclose who the ad is targeting and the total number of impressions.

The new rules expand upon the Fair Campaign Practices Act of 1972.

“My guess is Facebook and Google will settle. And they’ll settle by putting record keeping in place that the law requires,” McKenna said.

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