Disappointed after months of engagement, a US House panel has slammed YouTube parent company Alphabet, Meta (formerly Facebook), online discussion forum Reddit and Twitter for failing to provide additional information on how those platforms were used to organise violent events at the US Capitol on January 6 last year.
Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) announced that the Select Committee has issued subpoenas to four social media companies as part of its investigation into the January 6 attack on the US Capitol and its causes.
After inadequate responses to prior requests for information, the Select Committee is demanding records from Alphabet, Meta, Reddit, and Twitter relating to the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic violent extremism, and foreign influence in the 2020 election.
“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 radicalising people to violence,” said Chairman Thompson.
It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, “we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions”.
Alphabet’s YouTube was a platform for significant communications by its users that were relevant to the planning and execution of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, including livestreams of the attack as it was taking place, according to the committee.
Meta platforms were reportedly used to share messages of hatred, violence, and incitement; to spread misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories around the election; and to coordinate or attempt to coordinate the Stop the Steal movement.
Reddit was the platform for the “r/The_Donald” ‘subreddit’ community that grew significantly on Reddit before migrating to the website TheDonald.win in 2020, which ultimately hosted significant discussion and planning related to the January 6 attack.
“Twitter subscribers reportedly used the platform for communications regarding the planning and execution of the assault on the United States Capitol, and Twitter was reportedly warned about potential violence being planned on the site in advance of January 6,” said the committee.
Twitter users also engaged in communications amplifying allegations of election fraud, including by the former President himself.
The Select Committee has set a new deadline for the four social media companies to provide requested information by January 27.
US President Joe Biden said last week that Americans must ensure such an attack like that on the US Capitol a year ago “never happens again” as the country seems more divided than ever.
One year after the deadly attack on the Capitol, Democrats and Republicans still differ sharply over its key aspects, aftermath and the related congressional investigation.
The Capitol riot led to multiple deaths, over 100 injuries and damage to the Capitol.