Twitter Slapped with Big Punishment for Multiple Campaign Finance Violations

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Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday that Twitter will pay $100,000 in campaign finance disclosure violations for failing to maintain public inspection records about Washington political ads that ran on the platform from 2012 until Nov. 22, 2019, when political advertisements were banned from Twitter.

The judgment said at least 28 candidates and committees in the state reported paying $194,550 for political advertising on the platform since 2012, but Twitter unlawfully failed to maintain the required record for the ads, according to the filing in King County Superior Court.

Washington’s campaign finance law requires commercial advertisers to collect and make available information on sources and payments of political advertisements.

“Transparency in political advertising is critical to a free and informed electorate,” Ferguson said in a news release.

“Whether you are a local newspaper or a multinational social media platform, you must follow our campaign finance laws,” he said.

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An independent researcher notified the state Public Disclosure Commission about Twitter’s potential violations on Oct. 30, 2019.

The researcher had made requests for political advertisement payment records from 12 specific campaigns, but his request was not fulfilled for two months.

The case was referred to Ferguson on June 15 after the PDC determined Twitter may have violated the campaign finance laws.

Washington adopted its campaign finance disclosure law in 1972.

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“The Public Disclosure Commission appreciates the shared commitment of the Attorney General’s Office to vigorous enforcement of the state’s campaign finance laws,” Public Disclosure Commission Chairman David Ammons said in response to the ruling, according to the news release.

“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.”

He added, “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 money recovered by Ferguson in campaign finance cases will be placed in the state’s Public Disclosure Transparency Account. As of Tuesday morning, the attorney general has garnered $2.3 million in campaign finance cases.

“This resolution is reflective of our commitment to transparency and accountability,” a Twitter representative said in a statement to Fox Business. “We’ll continue working to uphold our commitment to transparency and to protect the health of the online public conversation, especially ahead of the 2020 U.S. Election.”

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This is not the first lawsuit Ferguson has resolved with social media companies for violating campaign finance laws.

In December 2018, the attorney general announced that Google and Facebook would each pay over $200,000 for failing to maintain political advertising records of ads placed on their platforms since 2013.

Ferguson filed a second lawsuit against Facebook in April for selling state political ads without maintaining the legally required information.

The complaint alleges that Facebook intentionally violated the state’s campaign finance disclosure law.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith