The Washington State Court of Appeals has ordered Facebook parent firm Meta Inc. to pay $10.5 million in legal fees to Microsoft Corp. and other plaintiffs, according to court documents released on Thursday.
In addition to the $200 million (nearly Rs. 16.5 billion) fine it was ordered to pay in Washington state, Facebook parent company Meta has been ordered to pay $10.5 million in legal fees for violating campaign finance disclosure laws repeatedly and intentionally.
A Seattle Times report said that King County Superior Court Judge Douglas North handed down a legal-fee order on Friday, two days after he issued what is believed to be the biggest campaign finance penalty in US history.
Within 30 days, North ordered the company to pay by wire transfer, check, or money order. The funds are to be sent to the Public Disclosure Commission, which oversees campaign finance legislation.
According to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the maximum fine imposed by North was appropriate, since his office had sued Facebook in 2018 for violating the same law, the Fair Campaign Practices Act, which was passed by Washington voters in 1972 and later strengthened by the Legislature.
The newspaper reported that Meta, headquartered in Menlo Park, California, did not immediately reply to an email requesting comment.
Meta and other ad sellers must maintain and publish a list of those who purchase political ads, the targets of such ads, how the ads were paid for, and the number of times they were viewed, in accordance with Washington's transparency law. Anyone may request the information. Television stations and newspapers have followed this procedure for decades.
Meta has repeatedly contested the law's requirements, arguing ineffectively in court that the statute “burdens political speech unduly” and “is virtually impossible to fully comply with” because it “illegally restricts political speech.” Despite Facebook's keeping an archive of political advertisements that appear on the platform, the archive does not provide all the information required by Washington's law.
In 2018, Facebook agreed to pay $238,000 and commit to political advertising transparency after Ferguson's first lawsuit. It subsequently announced that it would stop selling political ads in Missouri rather than comply with the standards.
Despite this, the firm continued to offer political advertisements, and Ferguson once again sued in 2020.
Meta, one of the world's wealthiest companies, reported quarterly earnings Wednesday of $4.4 billion, or $1.64 per share, on revenue of nearly $28 billion, for the three-month period that ended September 30.