US January 6 select committee subpoenas social media giants

Publish January 14, 2022

Panel says companies such as Twitter, Reddit and Facebook provided “inadequate'' response to earlier requests for information

The US House committee investigating the January insurrection has turned its attention to social media giants.

The committee has issued subpoenas to social media companies Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter, chairman Bennie Thompson said on Thursday.

The panel said the subpoenas were issued after “inadequate” responses to “prior requests for information” from the four companies.

The committee has spent months investigating thr events of January 6, 2021, when a mob of angry Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol Building, temporarily halting the certification of the electoral college vote count.

The hordes ransacked one of the most hallowed buildings in the US, causing more than $1 million in damage. At least five people, including a Capitol police officer, died as a result.

After the events it became clear that many far-right extremists groups had organised online using social media platforms to spread their messages.

“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 radicalising people to violence,” Mr Thompson said.

One of the many questions the committee hopes to answer with the subpoenas is how Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, moderated videos and live streams of the event.

“The select committee believes Alphabet has significant undisclosed information that is critical to its investigation, concerning how Alphabet developed, implemented and reviewed its content moderation, algorithmic promotion, demonetisation, and other policies that may have affected the January 6, 2021 events,” the committee wrote to Alphabet’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai.

In its subpoena addressed to Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook parent company Meta, the panel said: “According to public reports, people used Meta’s platforms in the months and days before January 6, 2021, to share messages of hate, violence and incitement, to spread misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories.”

The subpoena also referred to Facebook whisteblower Frances Haugen's revelations about how the company’s algorithms work.

The committee said the social media companies' failure to provide “documents and information necessary” to its investigation was “disappointing.

Alphabet and Meta did not respond to The National’s request for comment.


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