Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Tech Giants Over Misinformation, Capitol Attack Planning
The Jan. 6 committee on Thursday issued subpoenas to four behemoth tech companies over contributing to the “spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy.” The letters sent to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit signal just how broad the investigations scope has grown as the committee seeks to pin down the forces that inspired the attack on the Capitol.
“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 to radicalizing people to violence,” Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote in a statement.
The subpoenas come after months of waiting for the companies to assist the investigation voluntarily after the committee in August requested they provide “all reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and communications” regarding election misinformation and the attack on the Capitol. The committee noted on Thursday that their responses were “inadequate.”
“We cannot allow our work to be delayed any longer,” Thompson wrote.
The committee notes that YouTube, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, was used for communication relevant to the attack, and that it was also used to livestreamed the attack. It notes that Facebook, or Meta, was used to spread hate speech, misinformation, and “to coordinate or attempt to coordinate the Stop the Steal movement.” It also notes that Facebook is in possession of documents “critical” to the committee’s work. Reddit, specifically the “r/The_Donald” subreddit, led to discussion about the attack. “Twitter users also engaged in communications amplifying allegations of election fraud, including by the former President himself,” the committee concluded.
The letters sent to all four companies note that the company’s are in possession of undisclosed materials that are relevant to the investigation, hence the subpoenas, which throw a bit of cold water on the right-wing theory that Democrats and Big Tech are working in tandem make Republicans look bad.
“We’ve been actively cooperating with the Select Committee since they started their investigation, responding substantively to their requests for documents, and are committed to working with Congress through this process,” Google said in a statement provided to Rolling Stone. “We have strict policies prohibiting content that incites violence or undermines trust in elections across YouTube and Google’s products, and we enforced these policies in the run-up to Jan. 6 and continue to do so today. We remain vigilant and are committed to protecting our platforms from abuse.”
“As Chairman Thompson said recently, ‘Facebook is working with [the committee] to provide the necessary information we requested,'” wrote a spokesperson for Facebook. “Since then, Meta has produced documents to the committee on a schedule committee staff requested — and we will continue to do so.”
“We received the subpoena and will continue to work with the committee on their requests,” wrote a spokesperson for Reddit.
Twitter declined to comment.