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House Judiciary Committee to vote on citing Zuckerberg in contempt

TechnologyHouse Judiciary Committee to vote on citing Zuckerberg in contempt

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Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives at federal court in San Jose, California, Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote Thursday on whether to cite Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress for what it says is a failure to provide adequate documents in connection with an earlier subpoena in the panel’s online censorship investigation.

Meta and Zuckerberg “have willfully refused to comply in full with a congressional subpoena,” that sought to collect documents on the company’s communications with the Biden administration and its content moderation decisions, the committee alleged in its contempt report. The committee called Meta’s compliance with the subpoena “woefully inadequate.”

If the committee votes to cite Zuckerberg in contempt, the resolution will then need to pass the House floor. A criminal contempt case, as the committee suggests, could be referred to the Justice Department, which could decide whether to take up the case.

The initial subpoena was part of an investigation into Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, alongside Meta, to “understand how and to what extent the Executive Branch coerced and colluded with companies and other intermediaries to censor speech,” Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, wrote when he issued the orders to turn over documents in February.

Since then, Jordan has expanded the inquiry into Meta to include its new Twitter competitor Threads. Jordan wrote that he considered content moderation documents about Threads to be subject to the earlier subpoena.

“Although directly responsive to the Committee’s subpoena, Meta has failed to produce nearly all of the relevant documents internal to the company,” the contempt report says. “To date, Meta has produced only documents between Meta and external entities and a small subset of relevant internal documents. The Committee has a particular need for Meta’s internal documents, which would shed light on how Meta understood, evaluated, and responded to the Executive Branch’s requests or directives to censor content, as well as Meta’s decision-making process to censor viewpoints in the modern town square.”

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Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement that Meta has “operated in good faith” with the committee’s broad requests.

“To date we have delivered over 53,000 pages of documents — both internal and external — and have made nearly a dozen current and former employees available to discuss external and internal matters, including some scheduled this very week,” Stone wrote. “Meta will continue to comply, as we have thus far, with good faith requests from the committee.”

But the contempt report alleges that since the subpoena was issued, on Feb. 15, “Meta has produced communications between Meta and external entities and fewer than 40 pages of internal documents. Despite clear instructions in the Committee’s subpoena and repeated requests from Committee staff, Meta has thus far failed to produce nearly all of the requested internal communications related to its Executive Branch interactions.”

“The Committee negotiated extensively, offering significant accommodations, to try to reach an agreement,” the report continues, but Meta rejected those proposals and “offered a paltry production of internal documents on July 24.”

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