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Jan. 6 committee subpoenas tech giants after 'inadequate responses'

The subpoenas demand that Facebook, Google, Reddit and Twitter turn over more information about what they did and didn't do in the lead-up to Jan. 6.
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The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed Reddit, Twitter and the parent companies of Google and Facebook on Thursday after their "inadequate responses" to requests for information about what they did and didn't do in the lead-up to the deadly attack.

"It's disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions," committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement. "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."

A letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook's parent company, Meta, failed to turn over information about its decision to disband its civic integrity team "that focused on risks to elections including misinformation."

"Additionally, Meta has failed to provide critical internal and external analyses conducted by the company regarding misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation relating to the 2020 election, efforts to challenge or overturn the election, and the use of Meta by domestic violent extremists to affect the 2020 election," the letter said.

Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta, responded in a statement saying, "As Chairman Thompson said recently, 'Facebook is working with [the committee] to provide the necessary information we requested.' Since then, Meta has produced documents to the committee on a schedule committee staff requested - and we will continue to do so."

The panel also sent a letter to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and YouTube's parent company, Alphabet, saying, "The Select Committee believes Alphabet has significant undisclosed information that is critical to its investigation, concerning how Alphabet developed, implemented, and reviewed its content moderation, algorithmic promotion, demonetization, and other policies that may have affected the January 6, 2021 events."

"To this day, YouTube is a platform on which user video spreads misinformation about the election," the committee said.

In a statement, Google said: “We’ve been actively cooperating with the Select Committee since they started their investigation, responding substantively to their requests for documents, and are committed to working with Congress through this process. We have strict policies prohibiting content that incites violence or undermines trust in elections across YouTube and Google's products, and we enforced these policies in the run-up to January 6 and continue to do so today."

The letter to Reddit CEO Steven Huffman sought more information about "subreddits" involving former President Donald Trump, and the letter to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said the company has failed to turn over warnings it received about violent threats and documentation about its decision to suspend Trump's account.

A Reddit spokesperson said, "We received the subpoena and will continue to work with the committee on their requests."

Twitter declined to comment.

The panel first sought records from the four companies and others in August, asking for information related to "the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election or prevent the certification of the results, domestic violent extremism, and foreign influence in the 2020 election."

The committee also sought details of the policy changes the companies adopted "or failed to adopt" about the spread of violent extremism, misinformation and foreign malign influence. That included "decisions on banning material from platforms and contacts with law enforcement and other government entities," the panel said in a news release in August.

The committee is seeking information dating to the spring of 2020.

A review of various social media sources by NBC News ahead of Jan. 6 showed hundreds of posts discussing plans to move on the Capitol, including a map of the building and talk of how to create a stampede that would overwhelm Capitol Police.

FBI officials have acknowledged that there were calls for violence at the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally by Trump supporters, which was held just before the Capitol attack, but they have said the calls did not add up to specific, credible intelligence.

Testifying before a Senate committee in March, FBI Director Christopher Wray suggested that the amount of vitriol online makes it difficult to sort out.

"The amount of angry, hateful, unspeakable, combative, violent even, rhetoric on social media exceeds what anybody in their worst imagination [thinks] is out there," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.