The House committee handling the inquiry into January 6, 2021, insurgency at the US Capitol issued subpoenas to four major tech corporations on Thursday. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), the chairperson of the select committee, addressed letters to YouTube parent company Alphabet, Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, Reddit, and Twitter, asking for more information on how those platforms used to coordinate the day’s deadly actions.
The committee accused each corporation of hosting content related to the attack on the US Capitol, according to the announcement. The committee stated that “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,” adding that it believes Facebook’s since-disbanded Civic Integrity team held information relevant to the investigation.
According to TechCrunch at the time, Facebook was a significant hub of the Stop the Steal movement since the site failed to prevent the flow of content challenging the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results. Some extremist and militia-like organizations went on to play a role in the Capitol attack, such as the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters, who had previously used Facebook as their organizational tool. The committee’s protest to Reddit appears to be focused on The Donald, a well-known subreddit that relocated to its own domain in late January 2020 after being banned for hate speech.
The committee also highlighted that YouTube users “reportedly used the platform for communications regarding the planning and execution of the assault” and that Twitter users “reportedly used the platform for communications regarding the planned and execution of the assault.”
In August of last year, the committee requested relevant records from 15 different platforms, though that round of letters also included information from extremist-friendly sites like 4chan, 8kun, Gab, Parler, and the Donald. win, as well as more traditional social media apps like Snapchat, Twitch, and TikTok. The committee is reconsidering its prior demands from the four major social media platforms after they failed to give enough precise information “despite repeated and specific requests,” this time by January 27.