Subpoenas were issued to Meta, Alphabet and Google, as well as to Reddit, Reddit, Reddit, Youtube and Twitter.
In a statement, Democratic Rep. Bennie THOMPSON (chair of the Select Committee) stated that “Two important questions for the Select Committee include how misinformation was spread and violent extremism contributed towards the violent attack against our democracy and what steps were taken by social media companies to prevent them from becoming breeding grounds to radicalize people to violence.”
He continued, “It’s disappointing we still have not had the documents and information needed to answer those fundamental questions.”
Alphabet is informed by the committee that the company holds “significant undisclosed data that is crucial to its investigation” regarding how it moderated its content, and the impact of those policies on what was posted on the platform in January 6.
Thompson acknowledges in the letter that Alphabet and the committee have had subsequent engagements since August’s initial outreach to the panel. However, he states that Alphabet has not shown a willingness or ability to produce requested documents “voluntarily and expeditiously”.
Thompson claims that Alphabet still has not explained the process of taking down the YouTube account belonging to former President Donald Trump. He also states that the platform may have done anything to Trump’s account in the past before the January 6th deadline.
According to the letter, Alphabet also hasn’t provided any documents related to YouTube policy decisions which could have affected the execution, planning and coordination of the Jan 6 attacks. The panel raises specific questions regarding YouTube’s election misinformation moderation policy.
Meta reports that Facebook’s parent company has not yet provided key documents and/or responded to specific inquiries.
Thompson points out in Thompson’s letter that Meta still has not explained to this committee the reason why Facebook had disbanded the Civic Integrity group following the November 2020 elections.
Thompson stated in a letter to Meta, “Despite multiple and precise requests for documents related these matters,”
It is also noted that Meta failed to report on critical internal or external analyses it conducted regarding misinformation, dishinformation and malinformation in relation to the 2020 Election, efforts to contest or overturn the election and Meta’s use by domestic violent extremists for the 2020 election.
Meta “despite multiple and precise follow-up requests made on September 28 and October 29, 2021 respectively, Meta has refused to agree to a date for the production or identification of these materials,” adds the committee.
The committee requested 15 social media platforms to provide information to the panel in August. This included those that were subpoenaed Thursday. They wanted to know how they could have misinformed and attempted to overturn the election. A 14-pronged request by the panel sought a broad range of information and documents.
Thompson wrote to the companies this summer, “The Select Committee asks that you produce these documents in your custody control or possession.”
The panel asked specifically for data and analysis about domestic violent extremists involved in efforts to defeat the 2020 elections, particularly the Jan 6th attack. They requested information be sent within two weeks.
The select committee requested a paper trail and also sought information from these social media companies about how they attempted to correct misinformation on their platforms. It was also asking for information regarding where there might be holes.
In the hours following the attack at US Capitol, Twitter and Facebook suspended the accounts of prominent supporters of election conspiracy theories. Many of the people in the mob included White supremacists as well as QAnon conspir theorists. They also had members of right-wing organizations like the Proud Boys.
However, there have been many queries about the ability of social media platforms to do more to prevent misinformation being spread on their sites since the attack.
The story was updated Thursday with new developments.