Seattle is coming down hard on Facebook. The city's election authority said the social media giant is violating the city campaign finance law.
Reuters correspondent David Ingram.
(SOUNDBITE) DAVID INGRAM, CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"This is the first time a U.S. city, or state, has tried to regulate political advertising on the Internet. So, political advertising online has largely been unregulated. It's not like TV, or radio, or satellite broadcast, where a TV station will have to say 'here's who's buying ads this political season,' basically keeping an open book for anyone to come and inspect, in person or online, what ads are running. Facebook, Google, Twitter have never been subjected to this kind of political advertising, but this law in Seattle is written broadly enough, even though it was written in 1977 to encompass these big tech companies."
In a statement, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission said, Facebook must disclose details about spending in last year's Seattle city elections or face penalties, which could be up to $5,000 per advertising buy.
(SOUNDBITE) DAVID INGRAM, CORRSPONDENT, REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"Facebook and Seattle are really on a collision course to see who's going to backdown first. So, seattle wants more data from Facebook about who was targeted during the campaign. Facebook doesn't want to provide as much data, or, potentially, cant, as Seattle wants. So, legal experts are saying this is really a test of Facebook's commitment to transparency in the wake of allegations that Russians used Facebook to try to sway Americans in 2016."
Legislation is pending to extend federal rules on political ads on television and radio to also cover internet ads, and tech firms have announced plans to voluntarily disclose some data. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in September his company would "create a new standard for transparency in online political ads."
In addition to demanding Facebook for more data on political ads, Seattle has asked the same of Google. Google has asked for more time to comply, and that request is pending.