On November 30, Stranger writer Eli Sanders delivered a letter to Facebooks Seattle office asking the company to comply with local election law. Hes still waiting for that to happen.
On November 30, 2017, Stranger writer Eli Sanders delivered a letter to Facebook's Seattle offices asking the company to comply with local election law mandating transparency in political advertising. He's still waiting for Facebook to follow Seattle's law. ES

With Reuters, the Associated Press, and others now following up on The Stranger's coverage of Facebook's failure to comply with Seattle's election ad transparency law, here's a quick timeline of everything Associate Editor Eli Sanders has written so far:

December 4, 2017: We're Asking the Tech Giants to Comply With Seattle's Law on Political Ad Transparency. Will They?

Last week, pursuant to this Seattle law, I walked into the Seattle offices of Facebook, Google, and Twitter and politely asked for detailed information on local ad purchases in our 2017 municipal elections.

Available for public inspection at the Seattle offices of KING 5 television, as required by law.

December 7, 2017: Unlike Big Tech, Local TV Does Comply With Seattle's Law on Political Ad Transparency

I had a dramatically different experience on Tuesday when I stopped by the offices of Seattle's local NBC affiliate, KING 5 television.

Dear Facebook: Seattle would like you to share your election ad records for local races, as required by city law. Thanks!

December 14, 2017: City of Seattle Tells Facebook and Google to Hand Over Political Ad Data

In response to The Stranger's reporting, the City of Seattle sent letters to Facebook and Google this week telling the tech giants they are definitely "commercial advertisers," as defined by city ordinance, and are therefore legally required to disclose detailed information on all political advertising they've sold in recent Seattle elections.

US Senators Maria Cantwell, left, and Patty Murray, right, both support the federal Honest Ads Act.
US Senators Maria Cantwell, left, and Patty Murray, right. DAVID RYDER / GETTY IMAGES

December 18, 2017: Both of Washington's Senators Call for Transparency in Online Political Ads

“The public deserves to know who is behind political ads, which is why television stations have been required to disclose this information for decades," Washington State Senator Patty Murray said in a statement. "It’s past time to bring this same transparency into the 21st century by requiring online advertisers to adhere to the same standard.”

Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell.
Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell. City of Seattle

December 18, 2017: Bruce Harrell Says Tech Giants Must Follow Seattle Election Law or "Be Held Accountable"

Adding his voice to the calls for greater transparency in online political ads, Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell recently told The Stranger that digital platforms must follow this city's long-standing law on election ad disclosure.


December 20, 2017: Feature: Big Tech Is Failing to Comply with Seattle's Law on Election Advertising Transparency

As I drove along the western edge of Lake Union toward the shiny Seattle offices of Facebook, I imagined a not-far-fetched scenario: One day, some Seattle political campaign or nefarious outside group decides to take a cue from the Russians. Perhaps that group is looking to slightly depress turnout among voters of color in a particularly close Seattle race, so they buy Facebook ads targeted at certain small groups of Black, Latino, and Asian likely voters in South Seattle. Those narrowly targeted Facebook ads might read, "Don't forget to vote on November 9!" when, in fact, the election is being held on November 7. How would the rest of us even know this had occurred?

Washington States law on political ad disclosure is pretty much identical to Seattles.

December 20, 2017: Looks Like There's Another Law That Big Tech Is Ignoring. This One Covers All of Washington State

"An initial look did seem to indicate that the state's commercial advertiser requirements would apply to Facebook, Google, and other forms of social media and online advertising,” said Kim Bradford, spokesperson for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission...

The commission plans to comment further on this matter early next year.

"We're hoping to get more concrete guidance in place before the 2018 election cycle—which I realize in some places has already begun," Bradford said.


January 2, 2018: Facebook and Google Say They Need More Time to Comply with Seattle’s Election Transparency Law

Today was the deadline for Facebook and Google to comply with a decades-old Seattle law that requires them to disclose "the exact nature and extent" of all political ads they sell in local elections...

But on December 20, both companies, through their lawyers, asked Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, for 30-day extensions.

Barnett has since granted both requests on the condition that the companies use the 30-day period to get into compliance with Seattle law.

Ann Ravel used to chair the Federal Election Commission. She praised Seattles forward-thinking law on digital ad transparency and said other local governments should adopt similar measures.
Former FEC Chair Ann Ravel. Courtesy Ann Ravel

January 7, 2018: Obama Appointee Who Predicted Russian Interference Says Seattle Election Law Should Be National Model

When Ann Ravel was Chair of the Federal Election Commission, she specifically warned that America's lax attitude toward online political ads posed a great risk to our democracy.

“I mean, think of it," she said during an FEC meeting back in 2015. "Do we want Vladimir Putin or drug cartels to be influencing American elections?”

The FEC did nothing in response to Ravel's warning...

Ravel quit the FEC last year out of deep frustration with the agency's inaction on this and other matters. Ever since, she's been a loud outside voice calling for increased transparency in online political ads...

So Ravel was "very pleasantly surprised" and "impressed" to learn that Seattle already has a law requiring exactly the kind of disclosure she wants to see from tech giants when it comes to political advertising.

"Seattle's law is what I was asking for," Ravel told me by phone late last week.

Jolene Unsoeld, the crusading liberal daughter of a Republican lumberman, at Harbor Plywood in 1988.
Jolene Unsoeld, who helped enact the law in question. KATHY QUIGG, ABERDEEN DAILY WORLD

January 9, 2018: How Richard Nixon and Jolene Unsoeld Gave Seattle the Power to Open Big Tech's Ad Books

Perhaps this sounds familiar: A polarized country. An intrusion at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC. Agents from the FBI investigating, chasing a money trail that may, eventually, lead back to the Republican president. Trust in government at an alarming low.

This was the backdrop in 1972 when Jolene "Un-sold" Unsoeld, a driven reformer and political trailblazer, helped lead the push for the landmark Washington State Initiative 276.

At a time when little-to-nothing was being disclosed about the money behind political power in this state, the Unsoeld-backed measure aimed to restore some faith in government by bringing daylight to the financing of campaigns and political advertising. Because, as the bold letters in the statement for the initiative in the 1972 voters pamphlet read: "The people have a right to know."

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. KAREN DUCEY / GETTY IMAGES

January 23, 2018: Governor Jay Inslee Wants Facebook and Google to Disclose Data on Political Ads in Washington State

"As a general principle, the governor always favors increased transparency in government and elections," said Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith. "Current state law should require entities such as Facebook, Google or Twitter to disclose detailed information about political advertising, including ad targeting information."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: breaking Seattles law?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: breaking Seattle's law? DAVID RAMOS / GETTY IMAGES

February 5, 2018: Seattle Says Facebook Has Failed to Follow Law on Election Ad Transparency

Friday was the deadline for Facebook to comply with a longstanding Seattle law requiring companies to disclose detailed information about the political ads they sell targeting local elections...

But Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, says the barebones spreadsheet (.pdf) that Facebook sent him on Friday is a woefully inadequate disclosure.

"For more than 40 years, Washington state and Seattle law have both required those who accept advertising dollars from political campaigns to be transparent with the public about the 'exact nature and extent of the advertising services' they provide," Barnett wrote in a statement to The Stranger.

"We gave Facebook ample time to comply with the law," Barnett continued, "but their two-page spreadsheet doesn’t come close to meeting their public obligation. I’ll be discussing our next steps this week with the City Attorney’s office. "