Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, was the only witness in a House subcommittee hearing to outright affirm that his social media platform bore responsibility for the Capitol riot.
More than 300 people have been charged for the role they played in the January 6 riot and court filings show many people communicated about plans and real-time development on a number of social media platforms. Congress has long looked to crackdown on social media companies by curtailing their immunity and on Thursday, asked the heads of Facebook, Twitter and Google to answer for the extremist and harmful content that appears online.
Representative Mike Doyle, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, kicked off questioning by asking whether they bore responsibility for spreading information that led to the Capitol riot.
“Yes, but you also have to take into consideration a broader ecosystem,” Dorsey said. “It’s not just the technology platforms we use.”
Doyle noted that he agreed with Dorsey in that the responsibility isn’t just on technology platforms and was frustrated that Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google wouldn’t answer “yes” or “no.”
When Zuckerberg told Doyle Facebook’s responsibility was to “build systems,” the representative interrupted his answer, telling him, “I just want a yes-or-no answer.” Zuckerberg again replied that the responsibility was to build “effective systems,” at which point Doyle put on the record that he wouldn’t “answer the question.”
“We always feel a deep sense of responsibility, but I think we worked hard this election,” Pichai responded when asked the same question.
Doyle again followed up to ask, “Is that a yes or no?” Pichai told him it was a “complex question.”
Many of the people who were arrested for their involvement in the riot expressed that they felt the election was stolen and believed that fighting against Congress’ certification of the Electoral College results was the patriotic thing to do. That morning, then-President Donald Trump told his supporters about the threat there was to America as they knew it and expressed hope that then–Vice President Mike Pence and other “brave” legislators would step in to stop then-President-elect Joe Biden from taking office.
Zuckerberg put the responsibility for the riot on those who engaged in criminal behavior and Trump. He pointed to the former president’s “repeated rhetoric” that the election was rigged and his encouragement that people organize.
“We did our part to secure the integrity of the election,” Dorsey said in his opening remarks. “I believe the former president should be responsible for his words.”