Case #41024
Respondent name: Facebook, Inc.
Complainant name: Eli Sanders

On October 12, 2018, PDC Executive Director Peter Lavallee recommended this case be referred to the Washington State Attorney General's Office, following staff’s assessment/investigation of the complaint filed by Eli Sanders, a reporter with The Stranger, against Facebook (2) in PDC Case 41024. On September 19, 2018, Mr. Eli Sanders filed a formal complaint with the PDC alleging that Facebook failed to comply with RCW 42.17A.235 and his request for all political advertisements that were “purchased using Facebook’s platforms, including Instagram, with the aim of influencing Seattle's 2018 referendum on the 'Employee Hours Tax.' (Commonly known as the 'head tax')." 

On April 11, 2018, a citizen action notice (CAN) was filed with the Attorney General's Office (AGO) pursuant to RCW 42.17A.765 and with the PDC against Facebook alleging violations of RCW 42.17A.345 for failing to provide political advertising information for Facebook advertisements that were purchased to support or oppose 2017 candidates for Seattle City Council. 
The allegations contained in the CAN and PDC complaints (PDC Case 34055) were substantially similar. On June 4, 2018, the PDC became aware that a lawsuit was filed by the AGO in Superior Court in the name of Washington State against Facebook, and PDC staff dismissed that complaint (technically we closed the matter as was our practice at that time so we may want to use that language if we include the info). 

Based on staff’s initial assessment of the complaint, the fact Facebook appears to have committed multiple apparent violations of RCW 42.17A, and the AGO has already filed a lawsuit against Facebook concerning these issues, Executive Director Lavallee referred this matter to the Attorney General for appropriate action based on RCW 42.17A.765(?) as amended by ESHB 2938.

Disposition: Referred to Attorney General by Commission (Resolved 10/23/2018)
Date opened: 09/25/2018
Area of Law: WAC 390-18-050, RCW 42.17A.345

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