Twitter to pay WA $100,000 following campaign finance violations

Oct 13, 2020, 10:08 AM

Twitter has to pay $100,000 to Washington after violating the state’s campaign finance disclosure law, which Washingtonians adopted through an initiative in 1972.

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that the social media company will pay to Washington’s Public Disclosure Transparency Account for the violation.

“Twitter unlawfully failed to maintain for public inspection records about Washington political ads that ran on its platform from 2012 until Nov. 22, 2019,” according to the release from the attorney general’s office.

It was in November 2019 when Twitter implemented a ban on all political advertising.

The judgment filed in King County Superior Court asserts that at least 38 candidates and committees reported paying nearly $194,550 for political ads on Twitter since 2012, according to the attorney general’s office. Twitter unlawfully failed to maintain the required records for those ads.

The campaign finance law in Washington requires political advertisers to retain records related to political ads because the public has a right to inspect the records.

“Transparency in political advertising is critical to a free and informed electorate,” Ferguson said. “Whether you are a local newspaper or a multinational social media platform, you must follow our campaign finance laws.”

“The Public Disclosure Commission appreciates the shared commitment of the Attorney General’s Office to vigorous enforcement of the state’s campaign finance laws,” Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) Chair David Ammons said. “The people of Washington, in their overwhelming vote for the disclosure Initiative 276 nearly a half-century ago, created one of the nation’s most emphatic demands for transparency and accountability in campaign finance reporting. As powerful new platforms and commercial advertisers emerge in the campaign world, we must stay vigilant in demanding full compliance with all disclosure laws of Washington state.”

The PDC received notice from an independent researcher in October 2019 about the potential violations, who then communicated with the company to request records for payments from 12 specific campaigns but did not receive the requested records from Twitter for two months.

On June 15, the PDC referred the case to Ferguson.

This is also not the first time a social media platform has owed the state. In December 2018, Ferguson announced that Google and Facebook would each pay more than $200,000 to resolve lawsuits over the companies’ failure to maintain legally required information for state political advertising on their platforms since 2013.

Attorney General Ferguson names Facebook and Google in campaign finance lawsuit

A second lawsuit was filed in April against Facebook for selling ads without maintaining the required information for the public, which Ferguson alleges were intentional violations.

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Twitter to pay WA $100,000 following campaign finance violations