A congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued subpoenas to Alphabet, Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook to parent Meta, demanding records regarding the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Court summons issued Thursday signaled a significant escalation in the work of the January 6th committee, led by Democrats and Counts only two Republicans among its ranks.
The council has asked for testimony from dozens of the Trump administration in recent months officials and allies in search of information regarding the siege of the Capitol by supporters of the former president, which interrupted the verification of Joe Biden’s election and left five people dead.
“Two key issues for the selected committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism has contributed to the violent attack on our democracy and what steps, if any, have been taken by social media companies to prevent their platforms from fertile ground for radicalizing people to violence, ”said Bennie Thompson, a Democratic MP who chairs the committee.
Thompson said it was “disappointing” that despite “months of engagement,” MPs “still do not have the documents and information needed to answer these basic questions.”
Alphabet said it has been “actively cooperating” with the selected committee since the start of the investigation and has “substantially” responded to requests for documents and committed to cooperating with Congress.
It adds: “We have strict rules that prohibit content that incites violence or undermines trust in elections on YouTube and Google products, and we enforced those rules on the eve of January 6 and continue to do so today. We remain vigilant and committed to protecting our platforms from abuse. ”
Meta said: “As President Thompson recently said,‘ Facebook is working with [the committee] to provide the necessary information we requested. ‘ Since then, Meta has submitted the documents to the board according to the schedule requested by the board staff – and we will continue to do so. ”
Reddit said he had “received a subpoena and will continue to work with the board on their requests”. Twitter declined to comment.
The Jan. 6 committee indicated it also intends to step up its efforts by targeting existing lawmakers. The committee said Wednesday that it had requested information from Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives. McCarthy has indicated he will not cooperate voluntarily with the investigation, setting the stage for another possible court summons in the coming weeks.
Thursday’s court summons for Big Tech came hours after the Justice Department revealed that Stewart Rhodes, founder and leader Guardians of the Oath a right-wing extremist group, has been accused of rebellious conspiracy over its role on January 6th.
The charges were first brought against Rhodes, who was arrested Thursday in Little Elm, Texas. Another defendant, Edward Vallejo, was indicted and arrested for the first time in connection with the riots. Nine additional named co-defendants have already faced separate charges in connection with the attack.
The Ministry of Justice, which conducts the investigation separately from the congressional investigation, described the Oaths as “a large but poorly organized collection of individuals, some of whom are linked to the militia”.
The indictment alleges that after the November 2020 election, Rhodes teamed up with other defendants to “forcefully oppose enforcement of laws governing the transfer of presidential power” by coordinating and traveling to Washington to verify election results and planning to bring weapons to support their efforts.
The unsealing of the indictment marked significant progress in the investigation into the attack by the Ministry of Justice just a week after first anniversary from the mess.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland last week vowed to hold perpetrators accountable “at any level” from Jan. 6 and defended his department’s work in prosecuting those involved. Progressives have accused the justice ministry of not acting aggressively enough in persecuting Trump and his supporters.
Garland said more than 725 defendants have already been charged with criminal charges in connection with the attack and cited higher fees it may be yet to come.
“In complex cases, the initial charges are often less serious than later crimes,” Garland said, adding, “The actions we have taken so far will not be our last.”
Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy of San Francisco