January 13th, 2022
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas Thursday to four social media giants – Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter – to learn about the companies’ roles in the 2020 election as well as in “domestic violent extremism” and “the spread of misinformation.”
Congressional concerns over the spread of misinformation have focused on the social media companies for years. Alphabet is the parent company of Google and Youtube, while Meta is the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
This is the second Jan. 6 committee request for information from Google, Reddit, Facebook and Twitter. The panel said the companies offered “inadequate responses” to its August 2021 request.
“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,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) stated.
“It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions,” Thompson said. “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,” Thompson added. Midterms are this fall and if the Democrats lose the House majority, the committee likely will be disbanded, so time is running out for the investigation.
The Alphabet subpoena focuses on the company’s subsidiary video platform YouTube. The committee says it “significant communications” took place on Youtube “that were relevant to the planning and execution” of Jan. 6, and livestream videos of the riot were posted on the website.
The committee stated that Meta platforms, notably Facebook, “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.”
The Reddit subpoena states that the ‘subreddit’ group “r/The_Donald” grew on the platform before moving in 2020 to TheDonald.win website, “which ultimately hosted significant discussion and planning related to the January 6th attack.” The website, also known as America.win, is no longer updating.
“I have been contacted by the US Government concerning the January 6th Mostly Peaceful Protests that have been mischaracterized by the Select Committee, Resident Biden, members of the news media, and Democrats in Congress. Because of their continued political persecution of many still being held without bond on what are typically minor charges, I have no desire to speak with any of them,” America.win’s webmaster wrote, explaining that the site will be shutdown for the foreseeable future.
The final subpoena to Twitter alleges that users planned and executed Jan. 6 on the platform. The committee notes that former President Donald Trump and other Twitter users “engaged in communications amplifying allegations of election fraud.” The social media platform was reportedly warned that it was being used to plan potential violence on Jan. 6.