Politics

Congressional panel investigating Jan. 6 insurrection demands records from Facebook, Twitter, other tech firms

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Key Points
  • The House select committee investigating the deadly invasion of the Capitol on Jan. 6 said it is demanding a trove of records from 15 social media companies, including numerous pro-Trump platforms.
  • Those companies are: 4chan, 8kun, Facebook, Gab, Google and its subsidiary Youtube, Parler, Reddit, Snapchat, Telegram, theDonald.win, Tik-Tok, Twitch, Twitter and Zello.
  • Trump is currently suing Twitter, Facebook and Google — and their respective CEOs Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai — asking courts to let him back on their platforms.
Facebook and Twitter applications are seen on an Apple iPhone.
Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the deadly invasion of the Capitol on Jan. 6 said Friday it is demanding a trove of records from 15 social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google and a slew of pro-Trump platforms.

The requests for records stretching back to the spring of 2020 are 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 said in a press release.

The select committee is also looking into policy changes that the social media companies adopted "or failed to adopt" regarding the spread of violent extremism, misinformation and foreign malign influence. That includes "decisions on banning material from platforms and contacts with law enforcement and other government entities," the press release said.

The committee's latest requests further underscore the role of social media on the Capitol attack, as well as the increasing pressure on tech giants to address the rampant spread of dangerous or misleading content on their platforms.

Former President Donald Trump, a once-prolific Twitter user who was banned from that site and others after Jan. 6, used his online profiles to spread a wide array of false or unsupported conspiracy theories in the wake of his loss to President Joe Biden.

Trump is currently suing Twitter, Facebook and Google — and their respective CEOs Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai — asking courts to let him back on their platforms.

"We have received the request and look forward to continuing to work with the committee," a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.

A spokesperson for Google said the company is "committed to working with Congress on this."

"The events of January 6 were unprecedented and tragic, and Google and YouTube strongly condemn them. We're committed to protecting our platforms from abuse, including by rigorously enforcing our policies for content related to the events of January 6," the spokesperson said.

Twitter declined to comment on the records request.

The majority-Democratic panel was formed after Senate Republicans voted down a bill to form an equally bipartisan, "9/11-style" commission on the invasion.

The 15 social media companies are: 4chan, 8kun, Facebook, Gab, Google and its subsidiary Youtube, Parler, Reddit, Snapchat, Telegram, theDonald.win, Tik-Tok, Twitch, Twitter and Zello.

Those requests were announced two days after the select committee said it had sent letters demanding records related to at least 30 members of Trump's close allies. That sweeping solicitation also sought archived communications from the Trump White House and numerous other executive branch agencies.

Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., set a two-week deadline for all parties to produce the requested materials.

Trump responded to news of Wednesday's committee letters to federal agencies by insisting the Biden administration would invoke executive privilege to stymie the records demands.

"Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of my Administration and the Patriots who worked beside me, but on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our Nation," Trump said in a statement late Wednesday.

There is little reason to believe the current administration will protect Trump and his inner circle from a probe that could answer critical questions about what happened on Jan. 6.

Biden's Department of Justice already told Trump-era officials that they could testify before Congress about matters related to the Capitol invasion, including communications with the former president and his staff.

A July letter sent to former DOJ officials said they were free to provide Congress with "unrestricted testimony" that was "irrespective of potential privilege."

The White House yet to weigh in on the latest requests from the committee.

The select committee, crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., aims to produce a definitive look on the causes of the Jan. 6 invasion, when hundreds of Trump's supporters overran the Capitol, stopping lawmakers from confirming Biden's victory.

But the committee was criticized from the outset by Republicans who accused Democrats of constructing a biased investigation in order to milk the Capitol invasion for political gain.

Their protestations only grew louder after Pelosi rejected two of the five Republicans McCarthy had picked to sit on the 13-member panel. Those two picks, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Indiana's Jim Banks, were "ridiculous" choices due to their words and actions about Jan. 6, Pelosi said.

Jordan "may well be a material witness to events that led to" the invasion, said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., at the time.

Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., both vocal critics of Trump, are the only two Republicans on the select committee.

CNBC's Tom Franck contributed to this report.