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US Capitol assault probe subpoenas social media giants

The committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol subpoenaed records from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump who attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 made extensive use of social media in the runup and during the event. — © AFP
Supporters of US President Donald Trump who attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 made extensive use of social media in the runup and during the event. — © AFP

The congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Thursday subpoenaed records from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit that would detail the use of social media in the attack.

Subpoenas were sent to YouTube parent Alphabet (Google), Facebook parent Meta and the two others for records that could help explain “how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy,” said Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Select January 6 Committee.

Thompson said the companies had not responded adequately to requests for information to help in its investigation of the violent attack a year ago on the Capitol by supporters of then-president Donald Trump.

The committee is probing how the attack, which shut down the US Congress, came together and whether Trump and members of his circle had any part in encouraging it.

In a subpoena to Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, Thompson said YouTube was a “platform for significant communications by its users that were relevant to the planning and execution of January 6th attack,” including, he said, Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

Facebook, he told Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was used “in the months and days before January 6, 2021, to share messages of hate, violence, and incitement, to spread misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.”

Both Twitter and Reddit were used for discussing and planning the assault on the Capitol, according to two other subpoenas.

“Twitter was reportedly warned about potential violence being planned,” the subpoena to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said.

The committee, which has already interviewed some 300 witnesses, has issued subpoenas for several key figures and documents, including one for Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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