The subpoenas were sent to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Alphabet, the parent company to Google and Youtube, Twitter and Reddit.
“Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson who chairs the committee said in a statement.
“It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions,” he continued.
In August, the committee sent requests to 15 social media companies, including those receiving subpoenas Thursday, seeking to understand how misinformation and efforts to overturn the election by both foreign and domestic actors existed on their platforms. The panel’s 14-pronged request asked for a wide-ranging set of documents and information.
“The Select Committee requests that you produce the documents described in the attached schedule in your custody, control, or possession,” Thompson said in his letter to these companies over the summer.
At the time, the panel specifically asked for data and analysis on domestic violent extremists affiliated with efforts to overturn the 2020 election, particularly around the January 6 attack and asked for information to be provided in two weeks.
In addition to requesting a paper trail of information, the select committee also asked these social media companies in August to provide information on how they tried to address the misinformation that existed on their platforms and where the holes in doing so might have been.
In the days directly after the attack at the US Capitol, major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter suspended the accounts of influential promoters of election conspiracy theories — including Trump himself. A number of those in the mob were White supremacists, QAnon conspiracy theorists and members of right-wing groups like the Proud Boys.
But since the attack, many questions have been raised about whether social media companies could have done more to stop the spread of misinformation on their platforms.