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Google stops political ads in Washington state following lawsuit

Google logo (Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — Google stopped accepting political ads in Washington state Thursday, the same day changes to the state’s campaign-finance reporting requirements and enforcement procedures took effect.

The company took action days after state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the company, along with Facebook, saying the tech firms are not obeying state law on political-ad transparency.

Google will reject ads related to ballot measures and state and local elections, and will send notifications to affected advertisers, The Seattle Times reported.

The state Public Disclosure Commission issued regulations related to the new law and passed an emergency rule that clarified that digital ad companies like Google are subject to state law requiring them to maintain publicly available information about political ads, just like television stations and other media.

“We take transparency and disclosure of political ads very seriously which is why we have decided to pause state and local election ads in Washington, starting June 7, while we assess the amended campaign disclosure law and ensure that our systems are built to comply with the new requirements,” Google spokeswoman Alex Brasov wrote in an emailed statement.

Two lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court Monday said the companies have for years been in violation of the law that requires them to keep detailed records about who is paying for online political ads on their platforms.

“In the same way everyone else has to play by our rules, so too do Google and Facebook. In our view the law is pretty clear on this point,” Ferguson told the paper in a previous interview. “I understand this is a hassle for them, but I think the voters of our state have made it clear they expect transparency in this area.”