Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sued Google and Facebook, saying the companies failed to maintain information about political advertising as required by state law.
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Washington law requires the companies to maintain information about buyers of political ads, the cost, how they pay for it, and the candidate or ballot measure at issue, according to the lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The companies also must make that information available to the public upon request.
Ferguson said neither Facebook nor Google did so, even though Washington candidates and political committees have spent nearly $5 million to advertise on those platforms in the past decade.
"Washington's political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation," Ferguson said in a statement. "Washingtonians have a right to know who's paying for the political advertising they see."
Google did not immediately return an email seeking comment. Facebook said it's already working to be more transparent when it comes to political advertising.
"Attorney General Ferguson has raised important questions and we look forward to resolving this matter with his office quickly," Rob Leathern, Facebook's director of product management, said in an emailed statement.
Last month Google said it would do a better job of verifying the identity of political ad buyers in the U.S. by requiring a copy of a government-issued ID and other information. Google would also require the disclosure of who is paying for the ad.
The lawsuits in Washington state cited reporting by the Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger, which sought the information from Google and Facebook last December, to no avail.
The state is seeking fines and legal fees.