Congress has sent subpoenas demanding information from Meta (formerly Facebook), Twitter, Reddit, and Alphabet concerning the January 6th, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. The House of Representatives Select Committee that’s investigating the attack wants each company to disclose moderation policy details and other information that could illuminate how participants organized their efforts or spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.
The committee requested records from dozens of companies on a voluntary basis last year, but it says the response from the aforementioned four has been “inadequate” so far. “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,” said committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) in a statement.
“After months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary”
Alphabet’s subpoena letter asks for information about YouTube, which hosted livestreams of the attack but also suspended former President Donald Trump for inciting violence during it. It claims Alphabet has “significant undisclosed information” concerning how it developed and reviewed its moderation and demonetization rules, as well as details about how it developed policies around false election claims.
Twitter’s letter says the company hasn’t released details of warnings it received about extremists organizing on its platform or “internal company analyses of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation” relating to the election. It’s also supposed to deliver more information about its decision to suspend Trump’s account on January 8th. Twitter declined to comment on the subpoena.
Meta is supposed to produce documents about its decision to disband a team that dealt with election misinformation as well as “critical internal and external analyses conducted by the company regarding misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation relating to the 2020 election, efforts to challenge or overturn the election, and the use of Meta by domestic violent extremists to affect the 2020 election.” In a statement, Meta policy communications director Andy Stone said that “as Chairman Thompson said recently, ‘Facebook is working with [the committee] to provide the necessary information we requested.’ Since then, Meta has produced documents to the committee on a schedule committee staff requested - and we will continue to do so.”
Reddit, which has by far the smallest of the platforms involved, has been asked to commit to a “thorough review of its records” that could reveal details about whether it played a role in the attack. “We received the subpoena and will continue to work with the committee on their requests,” Reddit said in a statement sent to The Verge by Sandra Chu.
Update January 14th, 12:00PM ET: Added statement from Meta.