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Washington Attorney General says Facebook knowingly lied in lawsuit testimony

Geekwire logo Geekwire 10/14/2021 Mike Lewis
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong) © Provided by Geekwire Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson accused a Facebook employee of knowingly providing false information during testimony over the company’s purported violation of state campaign finance statutes.

The accusation, contained in court documents spotted by The Seattle Times, asserts that a representative for the advertising giant and the company’s attorneys both knew they were lying when providing testimony regarding the state’s lawsuit about Facebook’s handling of political ads. 

Washington’s unusual campaign finance laws require companies that accept political ads to keep publicly available records about who purchased those ads.

Previous to the existing lawsuit, Facebook had been sued by the state and in 2018 reached a settlement by agreeing to pay a $238,000 fine. Washington settled a separate lawsuit with Google over the same issue.

At the time, Facebook said that it would stop selling political ads in Washington, rather than comply with the law, though the court did not require Facebook to do so.

The more recent lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court in April 2020, asserts that the company never changed its ways and even continued to accept political ads in the state after promising to stop.

The lawsuit claims Facebook sold ads to 171 political committees in Washington state, which generated approximately $525,000 in revenue. But the company didn’t keep required data available, Ferguson’s office says.

At the time of the second lawsuit, a Facebook spokesperson said the company’s policy continues to forbid ads targeted to Washington state users or related to local issues, however company representatives acknowledged that some ads slipped through. Facebook representatives then declined to comment further, stating that it was an ongoing legal matter.

A company representative could not be reached for comment on the most recent court filings.

In the previous court filings, Facebook’s attorneys have argued the state’s advertising disclosure law is unconstitutional. Responding specifically to new allegations, company attorneys said the testimony wasn’t false because the questions and comments were outside the scope agreed upon by both parties, according to filings.

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