HomeNewsJan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Social Media Giants: Here’s Why

Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Social Media Giants: Here’s Why

by Amy Myers
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Over a year after the protests at the U.S. Capitol, the Jan. 6 Committee has subpoenaed the records for major social media channels. The subpoena follows “inadequate responses” to the Committee’s prior requests for information.

The Jan. 6 Committee has demanded the records from these major companies, Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter, to aid in its investigation of the insurrection. According to the panel, these companies hold key information regarding the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn 2020 election results and “domestic violent extremism.”

“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,” Jan. 6 Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement, per Axios.

Here’s a breakdown of the Committee’s understanding of the social media companies’ involvement.

Alphabet, the parent company of YouTube, acted as an environment where protestors could communicate plans for the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol building. This included live streams as the event took place, so says the Jan. 6 Committee. Meanwhile, on Meta’s social media platforms, including Facebook, protestors spread conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 presidential election. These individuals also used Facebook to coordinate the Stop the Steal movement and share messages of violence.

In addition, a community called “r/The_Donald” on Reddit formed as a predecessor of the website, TheDonald.win. This website and previous conversations allowed for “significant discussion and planning” of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Likewise, for Twitter, protestors used the platform to communicate plans as well as spread allegations of election fraud.

Social Media Companies Respond to Subpoena From Jan. 6 Committee

While the Committee has just now released the subpoenas for these companies, this isn’t the first request for information. Jan. 6 Committee chair Thompson expressed her frustration with the lack of communication with these parties in her statement.

“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. “We cannot allow our important work to be delayed any further.”

Since then, several of the responsible parties have reached out with their own statements.

“We’ve been actively cooperating with the Select Committee since they started their investigation … and are committed to working with Congress through this process,” a Google spokesperson said. “We remain vigilant and are committed to protecting our platforms from abuse.”

“Meta has produced documents to the committee on a schedule committee staff requested — and we will continue to do so,” a spokesperson said in response to the Jan. 6 Committee’s subpoena.

“We received the subpoena and will continue to work with the committee on their requests,” a Reddit spokesperson said.

According to the Committee, Twitter received a warning ahead of the insurrection that protestors may use the platform to coordinate violent acts. The company has yet to respond to the subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee.