House January 6 Committee Subpoenas Twitter, Google, Facebook, Reddit

WUSA Washington coverage of January 6 Capitol riot
Protestors surround the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2020. (Image credit: WUSA)

Social media giants are the latest subpoena targets in the investigation of the House Select Committee on the January 6 attack, which the committee says social media “products” helped organize.

Getting the subpoenas were Alphabet (Google), Meta (Facebook), Reddit and Twitter.

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said that the move to force their cooperation came after what he called “inadequate responses to prior requests for information” issued in August.

The committee wants information on “the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic violent extremism and foreign influence in the 2020 election.”

Thompson said the committee wants to know how the “spread of misinformation and violent extremism” helped fule the attack and what social media companies did, if anything, to try to prevent their platforms from being “breeding grounds” for radicalization.

Also: Sen. Ed Markey Ties Big Tech to January 6 Riots

The committee explained why it picked those four platforms, besides the obivious one about their size and power:

“Alphabet’s YouTube was a platform for significant communications by its users that were relevant to the planning and execution of the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol, including livestreams of the attack as it was taking place.

“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. Public accounts about Facebook’s Civic Integrity Team indicate that Facebook has documents that are critical to the Select Committee’s investigation.

“Reddit was the platform for the ‘r/The_Donald’ ‘subreddit’ community that grew significantly on Reddit before migrating to the website in 2020, which ultimately hosted significant discussion and planning related to the January 6th 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 6th. Twitter users also engaged in communications amplifying allegations of election fraud, including by [former President Donald Trump] himself.” ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.