By Jon Swartz
Committee looking into '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'
The House select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot has subpoenaed the parent companies of Google and Facebook as well as social media giants Twitter Inc. and Reddit, the panel's chairman said Thursday.
"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," committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a press release.
Last summer, the select committee demanded a trove of records from Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL)(GOOGL), Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. (FB), Twitter (TWTR), Reddit and other social media companies but received "inadequate responses" from the largest platforms, according to committee's release Thursday.
The Jan. 6 committee is seeking records tied to domestic terrorism, the spread of misinformation and efforts to influence or overturn the 2020 election.
"We cannot allow our work to be delayed any longer," Thompson said in a statement. He added that despite months of engagement, "we still not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions."
Thompson cited letters sent this week to each company, seeking specific information. Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg was asked about reports that the company disbanded a Civic Integrity Team that was to focus on election misinformation "and reduced the application of tools used to restrain the spread of violent content."
"As Chairman Thompson said recently, 'Facebook is working with [the committee] to provide the necessary information we requested,'" a Meta spokesperson said late Thursday. "Since then, Meta has produced documents to the committee on a schedule committee staff requested -- and we will continue to do so."
Alphabet was queried about YouTube, which live-streamed Stephen K. Bannon's podcast in the days before and after Jan. 6, 2021, and beamed images of the Capitol insurrection live.
"The Select Committee believes Alphabet has significant undisclosed information that is critical to its investigation, concerning how Alphabet developed, implemented, and reviewed its content moderation, algorithmic promotion, demonetization, and other policies that may have affected the January 6, 2021 events," the letter to Alphabet said. [Twitter was similarly admonished.]
In a statement to MarketWatch late Thursday, Alphabet said it has "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. 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."
Twitter declined comment.
"We received the subpoena and will continue to work with the committee on their requests," Reddit said in a statement emailed to MarketWatch.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 14, 2022 08:18 ET (13:18 GMT)
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