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House Judiciary panel plans contempt vote for Zuckerberg

Republicans have scrutinized the relationship between social media companies and the federal government

Mark Zuckerberg, then the CEO of Facebook, testifies remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2020 on "Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election."
Mark Zuckerberg, then the CEO of Facebook, testifies remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2020 on "Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Judiciary Committee announced plans to consider Thursday whether to hold social media mogul Mark Zuckerberg in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena.

A Republican staff report released Tuesday recommends that Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook parent company Meta, be held in contempt of Congress over a February subpoena that required the company to provide information about its engagement with the executive branch and Meta’s “decisions and policies regarding content moderation.”

“Although directly responsive to the Committee’s subpoena, Meta has failed to produce nearly all of the relevant documents internal to the company,” the report states. “To date, Meta has produced only documents between Meta and external entities and a small subset of relevant internal documents.”

The resolution released Tuesday, if eventually approved by the full House, would send the committee report to federal prosecutors in Washington to review for potential criminal charges.

House Republicans have scrutinized the relationship between social media companies and the federal government because they contend certain platforms have mistreated conservatives over their views and violated First Amendment free speech protections.

The committee report states Meta demoted certain content, changed its policies to “accommodate” government demands and removed specific posts and accounts.

The report also contends Meta was the subject of bullying from the Biden administration.

The panel is pushing for the company’s internal records because they say it would provide insight into how the company “understood, evaluated, and responded to the Executive Branch’s requests or directives to censor content,” the report states. The documents would also provide a view into the company’s decision-making process to “censor viewpoints in the modern town square.”

In a February letter to Zuckerberg, Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said the panel seeks Meta communications because it is trying to understand the ties between companies and the executive branch “to censor speech.”

“Your response without compulsory process has been woefully inadequate,” Jordan wrote to Zuckerberg.

The House panel requested information about the company’s interactions with the executive branch.

Days later, the company provided more than 200 pages, but the batch of records did not include internal communications tied to the company’s interactions with the executive branch, the committee report states.

The committee followed up by issuing a subpoena days later, including for the internal documents, the report states. But the company did not comply by the subpoena deadline, the report states, and instead provided “a limited number of external communications with the Executive Branch and accompanying documents, many of which contained redactions of key information.”

The report states that Meta later provided a small subset of internal records, but not all of the requested internal communications.

Andy Stone, a Meta spokesman, said the company has delivered more than 53,000 pages of documents, including internal and external records, along with making current and former employees available to discuss “external and internal matters.”

“For many months, Meta has operated in good faith with this committee’s sweeping requests for information,” Stone said. “We began sharing documents before the committee’s February subpoena and have continued to do so.”

“Meta will continue to comply, as we have thus far, with good faith requests from the committee,” he said.

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