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House GOP could try to hold Mark Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress

House GOP could try to hold Mark Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress


House Judiciary Committee Republicans claim Meta is withholding documents related to White House ‘censorship’ conversations.

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With an image of Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell on a screen in the background, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee may vote to hold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt later this week, according to a new report from Punchbowl News Monday.

The potential contempt vote hinges on a February subpoena from the committee demanding Meta produce documents and communications related to content moderation discussions it has had with executive branch officials. Members of the committee have accused Meta of failing to cooperate with the investigation by withholding documents. 

Sources told Punchbowl the committee plans to hold the vote on Thursday.

Responding to the possible vote, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone directed The Verge to a statement the company gave to Fox Business saying that Meta had “shared over 50,000 pages of documents” and “made nearly a dozen current and former employees available to discuss external and internal issues” in response to the committee’s subpoena. 

That clearly hasn’t been enough for Republicans, who have used their newfound House majority to investigate coordination between the White House and tech companies to censor content since the 2020 election. Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all received similar subpoenas in February to the one sent to Meta. 

“Meta has critical information that it has not turned over to the committee”

“Meta has critical information that it has not turned over to the committee regarding federal government efforts to censor speech online and how Meta responded to those efforts,” Russell Dye, spokesperson for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the committee, told Punchbowl

Democrats have pointed out that there is no law forbidding tech companies from collaborating with the government to find and remove harmful content, namely content falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was rigged or downplaying covid.

The GOP-led committee left Twitter out of the investigation, instead opting to support its new owner, Elon Musk, and the accusations he’s helped raise in a series of reports called the “Twitter Files.” Shortly after purchasing the company last year, Musk gave a limited group of journalists access to select internal company documents describing moderation decisions related to Hunter Biden’s laptop, “shadowbanning,” and former president Donald Trump’s 2021 suspension.

While the committee’s subsequent hearings haven’t amounted to more than saber-rattling, a federal judge recently issued a preliminary injunction banning Biden administration officials from making moderation requests of platforms.

The committee already escalated its fight with Meta last week in a letter to Zuckerberg suggesting that the company’s new Threads platform “raises serious, specific concerns because it has been marketed as a rival of Elon Musk’s Twitter, which has faced political persecution from the Biden administration following Musk’s commitment to free speech.”

The letter seems to be addressing an ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation into Musk’s acquisition of the company. Earlier this month, the committee brought FTC Chair Lina Khan in for a hearing that mostly focused on that probe and document requests it made of the company regarding its privacy and security practices.

Up until the Trump administration, Congress rarely voted to hold contempt votes. Recently, Trump White House advisers, like Mark Meadows, have been held in contempt, but the Justice Department has declined to prosecute them

It’s unclear if the Justice Department would act on any committee contempt vote against Zuckerberg. Punchbowl called the vote a “mostly symbolic step” for the committee.