If Facebook’s parent company, Meta, was truly committed to democracy, it would embrace Washington’s campaign finance disclosure requirements for commercial advertisers.
Instead, the social media giant is trying to shirk its civic responsibility by asking a court to strike them down.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson took Facebook to court in April 2020, alleging the company repeatedly violated state campaign finance law, despite announcing in 2018 that it would stop selling political ads in the state. The law requires ad sellers to disclose the name and addresses of anyone who purchases political advertising, as well as information about the target audience and reach of political ads.
That requirement “unduly burdens political speech” and is “virtually impossible to fully comply with,” the company argues in a recent court filing. That is flatly absurd. The court should reject the company’s request to strike down those provisions and hold the company accountable. The public has a right to know who is funding advertisements intended to influence voters’ decisions.
If the state’s local newspapers, television stations and radio broadcasters — often operating with small staff on shoestring budgets — can faithfully carry out their responsibilities under the law, surely a company that employs more than 83,500 people and counts revenues by the billions can do the same.
As for its effectiveness, Washington’s state campaign finance law was recently ranked best in the nation by the nonpartisan Coalition for Integrity’s State Campaign Finance Index, which promotes transparency and accountability. No campaign financing law is perfect, but Washington is ahead of the curve.
In fact, if Meta truly wanted to help clean up the cesspool of misinformation that has been allowed to putrefy on social media, it would voluntarily adopt similar disclosures for political advertising throughout the United States and in foreign countries.
Instead of complaining, the social media giant should embrace the opportunity to lead.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.