House committee investigating Jan. 6 subpoenas Meta, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit

The House committee leading the investigation into the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas to four major tech companies Thursday.

January 6 select committee chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) sent letters to YouTube parent company Alphabet, Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, Reddit and Twitter demanding for those companies to provide additional information on how those platforms were used to organize the day’s violent events.

In the announcement, the committee accused each company of hosting content related to planning the attack on the U.S. Capitol. “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,” the committee stated, noting that it believes Facebook’s since-disbanded Civic Integrity team held information relevant to the investigation.

As TechCrunch reported at the time, Facebook was a major hub of the Stop the Steal movement as the platform failed to control the spread of content denying the legitimate results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Facebook was also previously the organizing platform of choice for some extremist and militia-like organizations that went on to play a role in the Capitol attack, including the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters.

The committee’s complaint with Reddit appears to be focused on r/The_Donald, a notorious subreddit that migrated to its own domain after being banned over hate speech in late January 2020. The committee also noted that YouTube was used to livestream the events and Twitter users “reportedly used the platform for communications regarding the planning and execution of the assault.”

The committee first requested relevant records from 15 different platforms in August of last year, though that round of letter also demanded information from extremist-friendly sites including 4chan, 8kun, Gab, Parler and in addition to more traditional social media apps like Snapchat, Twitch and TikTok.

The committee is revisiting its previous demands from the four mainstream social platforms after those companies failed to provide sufficiently detailed information “despite repeated and specific requests,” this time with a deadline set for January 27.

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