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GOP members allege social media giants 'profited' off Jan. 6 chaos
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) announced last week that she had asked the FBI to investigate social media company Parler for any role it might have played in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
However, Republican members of the committee have no intention of letting the Democratic chairwoman ignore any potential role Facebook or Twitter might have played in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol if she's going to go after Parler.
In a letter to Maloney on Monday, first reported by Fox News, Oversight ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) demanded that the chairwoman amend her FBI request to include Facebook and Twitter and pointed out her "overtly partisan" request that did not even bother to mention the potential role the social media giants may have played in the riot.
The letter said everyone responsible for the insurrection should be held to account, but, they added, the focus should not be on just one social media company that has a known right-of-center base. And her move, they said, simply exposed the increasing coordinated efforts of Big Tech and the Democratic Party to chill speech.
Like you, we were disturbed and angered by the riot and we believe those responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But casting blame on a single social media company known for its conservative userbase while simply ignoring other social media companies known for sympathizing with liberal causes is blatantly and overtly partisan. Moreover, your letter is additional evidence of the growing alliance between Big Tech and Democrats to muzzle certain viewpoints, opinions, and perspectives.
The congressmen noted that Maloney's FBI investigation request omitted "the fact that other social media platforms were also facilitators of the January 6 riot."
"[A] cursory search of other social media platforms yields identical, disturbing posts, from across the political spectrum, advocating for a wide swathe of positions, demonizing an equally diverse group of people," they wrote.
The lawmakers noted that multiple reports showed riot plotters used Facebook and Twitter to plan and promote the insurrection:
Though your letter highlights several examples of disturbing, malignant posts made by extremists on Parler, it conveniently ignores messages sent on Facebook instructing people to “seal . . . in" Members of Congress in the tunnels below the Capitol and to “turn [the] gas on" — horrendous tactics reminiscent of humanity's darkest time. In one of the only conspiracy cases charged thus far stemming from the January 6 riot, the underlying facts show weeks of using Facebook to plan for the January 6 event. For example, Facebook posts, comments, and messages from between December 24, 2020 and January 5, 2021 indicate detailed planning about where to lodge and how to mobilize for January 6, including multiple references to “night hunting." One of the individuals involved in these Facebook activities was likely wearing paramilitary equipment during the attack on the Capitol.
A search of Twitter immediately after the riot found that accounts related to the QAnon conspiracy theory had referred to the January 6 date roughly 20,800 times prior to the attacks. After the riot, renewed calls to action from extremists online occurred on Twitter, encouraging events such as an “Armed March on All State Capitals" across the country.
They also stated that Facebook and Twitter "appear to have profited off of the January 6 riot." According to Comer and Steube's letter, the platforms generate more revenue during political turmoil because of increased engagement.
But, they noted, it seems unlikely that Democrats will want to appear to be going after Big Tech. After all, it could negatively impact Democratic coffers. The letter pointed out that during the 2020 election cycle nearly 93% of Facebook employees' federal election contributions went to Democrats. Twitter employees were even more likely to give to the Democratic Party, with 98.41% of their federal election donations to the party.
Maloney's move is clearly a "political ploy," the Republicans wrote, that is "taking advantage of the tragedy" in order to "shut down speech Democrats dislike."
"We request you amend your request for an FBI investigation to include Facebook and Twitter and the roles those companies played to contribute to the January 6 riot," they concluded.
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