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Twitter agrees to give $100,000 to Washington state attorney general to settle election lawsuit

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Twitter is making a $100,000 donation to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office as part of a settlement related to the 2016 presidential election.

The donation will go toward “legal expenses and the enforcement of the settlement,” Twitter said in a statement on Friday. Washington State had sued Twitter, arguing the company failed to honor state voter registration data and as a result permitted thousands of fake accounts to masquerade as legitimate ones to spread misleading political messages.

The California Attorney General’s Office last month also settled with Twitter, agreeing to pay $230,000 for failing to keep voter registration records for 21,000 accounts it temporarily deactivated before the 2016 election.

While Twitter deleted the accounts and determined they were not legitimate, the company never determined who was behind them or which users were behind them. That lack of information violates Washington’s election laws, which require candidates and political committees to disclose information about their memberships and supporters. The 21,000 Twitter accounts fell into that category.

In its settlement with Washington State, Twitter agreed to make “reasonable efforts” to find out who the accounts were, including checking names against a list of suspect accounts that had been run by Russian government operatives during the election.

Beyond paying Washington State $100,000, Twitter will also hire a “senior political communications specialist” and two new employees to develop policies on how content on its platform can be used by campaigns. The company will also have to send a report to the attorney general annually through October 2022 that “measures and evaluates compliance with the terms of this settlement.”

“As an American citizen and a public official, I believe that Twitter has a responsibility to protect the privacy of its users and enforce existing law, and we will continue to take that responsibility seriously,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement on Friday.

Though it is known as the “free speech” platform, Twitter has failed to provide exact details about who is behind campaigns and what they’re saying.

A report by BuzzFeed News earlier this year revealed that Twitter allows users to conceal the fact that they are a part of a political campaign as long as they describe themselves as an “independent political commentator” or a “public servant.”

Though the company is known for not allowing advertising, much of the information about what advertisers are saying is lost in the black boxes that are Twitter’s algorithms. That fact has at times led to complaints about ads with incorrect or misleading information.

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