US Capitol Riot Panel issues Subpoena to Meta, Alphabet, Twitter

Subpoenas have been issued to social media giants Meta, Twitter, Alphabet, and Reddit by the US House Commitee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the  Capitol.

The subpoenas were issued on the basis of inadequate response to requests for information and records relating to the spread of misinformation and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) announced: “After inadequate responses to prior requests for information, the Select Committee is demanding records from Alphabet, Meta, Reddit, and Twitter relating to the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic violent extremism, and foreign influence in the 2020 election.”

In August 2021, the committee sent letters to 15 social media companies and sites where misinformation about election fraud spread.

The letters to the social media companies sought a range of records, including data, reports, analyses, and communications stretching back to spring of 2020. The Select Committee was also seeking information on policy changes social media companies adopted—or failed to adopt—to address the spread of false information, violent extremism, and foreign malign influence, including decisions on banning material from platforms and contacts with law enforcement and other government entities.

However, following months of discussions with the companies, only the four corporations were issued subpoenas on Thursday 13th January 2022, because the committee said the firms were “unwilling to commit to voluntarily and expeditiously” cooperating with its work.

Chairman Thompson issued the following statement:

“Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps—if any—social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence. It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions.  The Select Committee is working to get answers for the American people and help ensure nothing like January 6th ever happens again. We cannot allow our important work to be delayed any further.”

Alphabet’s YouTube was a platform for significant communications by its users that were relevant to the planning and execution of January 6th attack on the United States Capitol, including livestreams of the attack as it was taking place.

Meta platforms were reportedly used to share messages of hatred, violence, and incitement; to spread misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories around the election; and to coordinate or attempt to coordinate the Stop the Steal movement. Public accounts about Facebook’s Civic Integrity Team indicate that Facebook has documents that are critical to the Select Committee’s investigation.

Reddit was the platform for the “r/The_Donald” ‘subreddit’ community that grew significantly on Reddit before migrating to the website in 2020, which ultimately hosted significant discussion and planning related to the January 6th attack.

Twitter subscribers reportedly used the platform for communications regarding the planning and execution of the assault on the United States Capitol, and Twitter was reportedly warned about potential violence being planned on the site in advance of January 6th. Twitter users also engaged in communications amplifying allegations of election fraud, including by the former President himself.


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