Jan. 6 Panel, Taking Wide-Bore Approach, Demands Records From Social Media Companies, Tech Giants

UNITED STATES - JULY 27: Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., addresses the media after the House Jan. 6 select committee hearing in Cannon Building to examine the January 2021 attack on the Capitol, on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Also appearing from left are, Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 27: Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., addresses the media after the House Jan. 6 select committee hearing in Cannon Building to examine the January 2021 attack on the Capitol, on Tuesday, July 2... UNITED STATES - JULY 27: Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., addresses the media after the House Jan. 6 select committee hearing in Cannon Building to examine the January 2021 attack on the Capitol, on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Also appearing from left are, Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 27, 2021 1:33 p.m.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack announced a broad request on Friday for records relating to the insurrection from social media and other internet-related companies.

The request demands records about the planning and execution of the attack from a range of companies that include right-wing social networks Gab and Parler, troll forums 4Chan and 8Kun, and mainstream tech giant Google, among others.

The companies, which also include Facebook, Twitter, and walkie-talkie app Zello, have until Sept. 9 to respond.

The panel issued a sweeping request for records relating to the attack from federal agencies on Wednesday, taking square aim at Trump’s involvement and at any potential coordination between rioters and the White House.

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This batch of requests appears intended to examine the role of disinformation in the run-up to the attack, as well as searching for potential ways that rioters coordinated before and during the insurrection attempt.

For major social networks like Twitter and Facebook, the panel asks for “internal or external reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and related communications” regarding misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and the presence of both domestic violent extremists and state-sponsored influence operations.

Social networks have been accused of failing to adequately monitor violent content on their platform, and of creating systems that entice people into engaging with and eventually adopting extremist views.

The panel’s requests appear directed at uncovering how the tech giants responded to both the metastasizing belief that the election had been stolen, and subsequent planning for the insurrection in real-time. The panel, for example, asks not only for reports on the content itself, but also for records “regarding how your platform’s/platforms’ algorithm” may have contributed to the environment that led to the insurrection.

The committee also dips into a request that may address an obsession of the extremely and incurably online right: shadow-banning. Many conservatives have claimed that a range of malefactors, from Google to Twitter to Facebook, “shadow-ban” them by tweaking the algorithm to downplay their content.

This was most notable in the days after multiple websites permanently banned former President Trump for instigating the Capitol insurrection, as conservative notables complained that they suddenly began to hemorrhage both retweet numbers and followers.

Lo and behold, the Jan. 6 committee may finally produce a conclusive answer. The panel is asking the networks for records about any “user-generated content that was sanctioned, suspended, removed, throttled, deprioritized, labeled, suppressed, or banned from your platform(s).”

The requests are all virtually identical, and are also addressed to messaging app Telegram.

That company became a haven for members of the far-right who were banned from mainstream social networks after Jan. 6. The panel also wants information from theDonald.win, a website that hosted QAnon proponents and numerous Capitol rioters before Jan. 6.

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