Watch: Jan 6th Probe Subpoenas Big Tech

Written By BlabberBuzz | Saturday, 15 January 2022 16:45
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The House Select Committee created to probe the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol published subpoenas to four major social media companies on Thursday as it examines the role of “misinformation” in verifying the violence and what the companies knew about the riot or the “spread of extremism that enabled the attack.”

Alphabet, Meta, Reddit, and Twitter received subpoenas. The committee in August 2021 asked the companies to voluntarily present information, though letters to the companies sent alongside subpoenas Thursday claimed they did not present any documents to the Committee on time or, in Reddit’s case, declined altogether.

“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,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, in a statement.

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“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.”

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For Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, the Committee wants to know how it “developed, implemented, and reviewed its content moderation, algorithmic promotion, demonetization, and other policies that may have affected the January 6, 2021 events” on the video streaming platform. It wishes to know why former President Donald Trump’s account was suspended after Jan. 6, why it originally had not planned to do something against accounts that broke its election misinformation content moderation policy until Inauguration Day (which it reversed in the aftermath of the riot), and why YouTube did not take action against Trump’s account before Jan. 6.

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Its investigation into Twitter similarly “failed to produce any documents that fully explain” its decision to suspend Trump from the platform or other conclusions it made on Jan. 6. Twitter has not produced “documents relating to warnings it received regarding the use of the platform to plan or incite violence on January 6th,” a letter from Thompson said, as well as ”company analyses of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation relating to the 2020 election.”

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Facebook, whose parent company is Meta, had a “Civic Integrity team” committed to combating election claims. But the team was dispersed after the election, and Facebook weakened some of its tools, according to a letter from Thompson. The company has not implemented the Committee’s demands for documents related to that or its “critical internal and external analyses” about false information relating to the 2020 election.

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