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House Judiciary expands social media inquiry to Meta’s Threads

TechnologyHouse Judiciary expands social media inquiry to Meta's Threads

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Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, center, and ranking member Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., conduct the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the “Report of Special Counsel John Durham,” in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to hand over documents about content moderation on Threads in response to an earlier subpoena related to the panel’s ongoing investigation of tech platforms’ policies and contact with the Biden administration.

The letter, obtained exclusively by CNBC, is an early indication of the added spotlight Meta’s newest product could bring to the company in Washington. Threads competes directly with Twitter, which owner Elon Musk wants to shape with his self-declared free speech absolutism in mind, despite at times suspending users including journalists.

While Meta executives have made clear they don’t want news and politics to dominate the conversation on Threads, it’s a large part of what users have historically come to Twitter to discuss. The more that becomes the case on Threads, the more it could land in political crosshairs.

“Indeed, Threads raises serious, specific concerns because it has been marketed as rival of Elon
Musk’s Twitter, which has faced political persecution from the Biden Administration following
Musk’s commitment to free speech,” Jordan wrote. He pointed to a Wall Street Journal article that found the Federal Trade Commission had asked Twitter to hand over internal communications about Musk and identify journalists who were allowed to access the company’s records, as part of a probe into whether Twitter could still adequately protect consumer information.

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“In contrast, there are reports that Threads will enforce ‘Instagram’s community guidelines,’ which resulted in lawful speech being moderated following pressure by the government,” Jordan wrote. He pointed to a recent lawsuit against the Biden administration filed by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana that alleged the federal government had suppressed speech through its efforts to get social media platforms to address what it viewed as harmful posts related to the Covid-19 pandemic or elections, for example.

On July 4, a federal judge in Louisiana granted in part a preliminary injunction in that suit that barred several Biden administration officials from meeting with social media companies to encourage them to remove or delete posts. It also prevented those officials from even flagging certain kinds of social media posts to the companies to encourage their removal or suppression.

In the wake of the ruling, the State Department canceled a regular meeting with Facebook about the 2024 election and hacking threats, a person at the company told The Washington Post. On Friday, an appeals court agreed to put a temporary pause on the preliminary injunction, meaning government flagging of social media posts could resume until the court further considers the case.

Jordan wrote that the committee’s Feb. 15 subpoena, which was sent to Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft, “is continuing in nature,” meaning it also applies to Threads despite its more recent launch. He said the new letter serves as a formal notice to preserve relevant existing and future documents about Threads and asked Meta to provide documents related to Threads’ content moderation and discussions with the Biden administration by the end of the month.

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Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the letter House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan sent Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg here:

Meta hits fresh 52-week high as 100M sign up for its Threads platform. Here's how to play the stock

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