The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2020, attack on the United States Capitol subpoenaed some of the largest tech companies in the U.S. on Thursday, demanding they answer for their platforms’ role in the insurrectionist attack.
The companies subpoenaed by the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack include Reddit, Twitter, Facebook’s parent company Meta, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube. The committee seeks to ask these companies questions “relating to the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic violent extremism, and foreign influence in the 2020 election,” according to a committee press release.
Meta did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Reddit said only that the company has “received the subpoena and will continue to work with the committee on their requests.” Twitter declined to comment. Alphabet asserted in a statement to Gizmodo that its policies prohibit content that would have contributed to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“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,” a spokesperson said. “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 January 6 and continue to do so today. We remain vigilant and are committed to protecting our platforms from abuse.”
The Jan. 6 subcommittee, formed on July 1 of last year, is investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol by hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump, who instigated the attack following his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Since the immediate aftermath, social media has come under fire for its obvious role in the attack, which was carried out as Congress certified Biden’s election win.
The select committee previously demanded these companies answer questions about their platforms in late August. However, according to Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Jan. 6 select committee, their answers were incomplete and inadequate.
“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,” Thompson said in a statement. “It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions. 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.”
By and large, these companies have attempted to paint themselves as responsible corporate citizens, doing everything they can to limit the appearance that their platforms were used to stoke an insurrection. In its letters to the subpoenaed tech companies, the Jan. 6 committee details the specific ways in which they played a role on or before the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead.
Despite Alphabet’s assertions to the contrary, YouTube, the committee said, enabled “significant communication” of information pertaining to the “planning and execution” of the attack, while also allowing users to livestream the riot.
Facebook, meanwhile, served as a platform for spreading “messages of hatred, violence, and incitement” and “misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories around the election,” the committee said. It specifically highlighted the “Stop the Steal” groups that proliferated on Facebook following the November election. Twitter similarly allowed users to post “communications regarding the planning and execution of the assault on the United States Capitol” despite advanced warning that they were doing so, according to the committee.
The Jan. 6 committee implicated Reddit specifically for its pro-Trump r/The_Donald community, which the company banned in late June 2020 along with some 2,000 other subreddits. The committee points out that The Donald later moved to its own website, “which ultimately hosted significant discussion and planning related to the January 6th attack.”
Update 9 am ET, Jan. 14: Added statement from Alphabet.