Facebook’s parent company Meta has been ordered by a Washington State court to pay $25 million in fines after it found that the social media platform violated Washington’s political disclosure law 822 separate times between 2019 and 2021.
Meta was also ordered to fully comply with the state’s election transparency laws, which have existed since 1972, requiring ad sellers to “disclose the names and addresses of political buys, the targets of such ads and, the total number of viewers of each ad.” Facebook argued in court that the laws are unconstitutional.
While Facebook has dealt with numerous instances of election related complaints and also litigation, it should be noted that the company has received extensive state and local subsidies totaling almost $800 million, including $35 million in tax credits from Washington; that’s free taxpayer dollars going into the pockets of Mark Zuckerberg. While Meta argues that it should not be subject to the oversight of states when it comes to its political advertising, it’s hard for them to claim private business rights when they are swimming in government money.
The fine from Washington might not seem like much, but Meta and Facebook have entered financial free fall over the past year as problems continue to accumulate.
Mark Zuckerberg has seen his net worth plunge by more than $100 billion in the last 13 months as the stock price of his company, Meta, faced steep losses this week. The primacy of Facebook in the social media sphere is coming into question, with Zuckerberg’s virtual reality projects adding little optimism or excitement.
Before the advent of the covid lockdowns most Big Tech media platforms were in steep financial decline due to falling ad revenues and rising costs. Facebook in particular was dealing with stock share losses and stagnating growth. After the lockdowns began, there was a brief period in which the public and investors believed that online platforms and sales would become indispensable as the only options available in the midst of a pandemic environment and government enforced stay at home orders.
People thought we might be locked down for many years to come and the online marketplace would dominate. One would think that the populace would turn to these corporations in droves as the only source of relief, but this renaissance for Big Tech never actually materialized.
Facebook has since suffered continuous losses leading to its first ever net revenue drop in 2022. Facebook’s user growth has also essentially frozen and the company is slated to lose users this year. This trend tracks with most social media companies and theories vary as to why. Many people suggest that leftist political bias inherent in the “terms of service” of Big Tech platforms has created mass distrust among potential users.
Another factor which has many in the public pulling back from Facebook is the problem of user data and how it is being handled. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network’s power and control competitors by treating its users’ data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data, according to about 4,000 pages of leaked company documents largely spanning 2011 to 2015. In some cases, Facebook would reward favored companies by giving them access to the data of its users. In other cases, it would deny user-data access to rival companies or apps.
This kind of blatant disregard for user privacy has created mass suspicion among Americans. Polls show that the public distrusts Facebook more than any other social media company, with 77% of people citing unfavorable views of the company. Mark Zuckerberg’s lack of visible remorse or conscience when it comes to matters of privacy adds gasoline to the fire.
The problems with the platform are extensive but rather common within social media giants. The Washington case appears to be yet another instance in which Big Tech companies like Meta are happy to take state and federal money while refusing to respect legal guidelines.