Under Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, commercial advertisers that host political ads must maintain records on, and make available for inspection, certain information about those ads, including the name of who paid for the ad, the dates the ad was publicly displayed, and — for digital platforms — the demographics targeted by the ad, and the ad’s number of impressions. Following failure by Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to comply with such requirements, Washington state brought an enforcement action against the company alleging that it committed hundreds of violations of the disclosure law. Meta argued that Washington’s disclosure law violates the First Amendment and is preempted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Washington’s King County Superior Court upheld the disclosure law — rebuffing Meta’s attempt to gut it — and ordered Meta to pay a hefty penalty. Meta appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals, pressing its argument that the Washington law is unconstitutional. Meta relies heavily on Washington Post v. McManus, a case in which the Brennan Center participated as amicus curiae.
We joined the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters of Washington, and Fix Democracy First to file an amicus brief highlighting the need for effective digital political transparency laws to promote the public interest, hold advertisers accountable, and ensure informed self-governance — all against the backdrop of ballooning spending on such ads. We also argue that Meta’s constitutional challenge to Washington’s disclosure law disregards decades of court decisions upholding campaign finance transparency laws.