Social media companies failed to address the online extremism and call for violence that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol.
The House committee that spent months investigating the violent riot collected stunning evidence on how these social media companies failed to address extremism on their platforms.
The 122-page memo was circulated among the committee but the committee leaders declined to delve into those topics in detail in their final report.
The committee was reportedly reluctant to dig into the roots of domestic extremism taking hold in the Republican Party beyond former president Donald Trump and concerned about the risks of a public battle with powerful tech companies,
But what they found shows a failure of big tech to address violence online.
Congressional investigators found evidence that tech platforms, especially Twitter, failed to heed their own employees’ warnings about violent rhetoric on their platforms.
The social media platforms bent their rules to avoid penalizing conservatives, particularly then-president Trump, out of fear of reprisals.
The draft report details how most platforms did not take “dramatic” steps to rein in extremist content until after the attack on the Capitol, despite clear red flags across the internet.
Confronting that evidence would have forced the committee to examine how conservative commentators helped amplify the Trump messaging that ultimately contributed to the Capitol attack.
Some committee members considered doing this to be both politically risky and inviting opposition from some of the world’s most powerful tech companies.
Understanding the role social media played on Jan. 6 takes on greater significance as social media platforms undo some of the measures they adopted to prevent political misinformation on their platforms.
Take Twitter for example. The new owner, conservative billionaire Elon Musk, laid off most of the team that reviewed tweets for abusive and inaccurate content. He also reinstated several prominent accounts that Twitter had previously banned in the fallout from the Capitol attack, including Trump’s and that of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Facebook is also considering allowing Trump back on its platform.