Twitter fined $100,000 for violating campaign-finance law

Twitter is paying $100,000 to the state of Washington for violating its state campaign-finance disclosure laws.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday said that the social media platform will pay Washington Public Disclosure Transparency Account for violations of a law requiring that records of campaign ad operations be made available for public inspection.

The judgment filed in King County Superior Court says that “at least 38 Washington candidates and committees reported paying $194,550” for political advertising on Twitter’s platform since 2012, until Nov. 22, 2019, when Twitter banned all political ads.

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But it failed to maintain the records the state requires of political advertisers and make them available for public inspection, as the state law requires.

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

David Ammons of the Public Disclosure Commission 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 commission received notice from an independent researcher last year about the possible violations after the researcher asked for records from Twitter.

The AG said, “Washington campaign finance law requires commercial advertisers, including popular social media platforms, to collect information on the sources and payments of political advertising and make it available for public inspection within 24 hours of the ad’s publication.”

Advertisers also are required to keep information such as the name of the candidate, or the measure, the dates of the advertisements, the identity of the person sponsoring the ad and the cost.

The state previously said Google and Facebook each paid more than $200,000 for similar disputes. And just a few months ago, Ferguson filed a second action against Facebook “for selling Washington state political ads without maintaining legally required information for the public.”

Zerohedge’s Tyler Durden said the irony is that Twitter “has been doing everything it can to crack down on political ‘misinformation'” and  now is “being dinged for failing to share information about its political advertising operation.”