WASHINGTON — Leaders of two House panels sent letters to eight social media companies Friday demanding they take “immediate action” to address threats on their platforms to federal law enforcement officials after an increase of right-wing calls for violence after FBI search. from former President Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida.
In the letters, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney, D-New York, and chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Stephen F. Lynch, D-Massachusetts, and chairman of its Homeland Security Subcommittee, also expressed concern about the “statements reckless” of Mr. trump and some Republican members of Congress. The statements have “coincided with an increase in social media users calling for civil war and violence towards law enforcement,” they said.
The letters were sent to mainstream platforms such as Twitter, TikTok and Facebook’s parent company Meta, as well as right-wing social media sites such as Gab, Gettr and Rumble. A letter was also sent to Truth Social, Mr Trump’s social media site, which exploded with calls for violence last week after FBI agents took boxes of highly sensitive documents from Mar-a -Lago, the former president’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Mr Trump had reportedly taken the materials from the White House and refused to return them.
As Republican lawmakers rallied around the former president, many of them criticized federal law enforcement officials. Mr. Trump described his home as “besieged” by FBI agents, and his political committee asked supporters in a fundraising message: “Will you fight me?”
The lawmakers’ letters specifically cited comments by Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, who accused the Justice Department of being “weaponized” against Mr. Trump, and inflammatory tweets by Republican lawmakers. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, separately drew comparisons between the FBI and the Nazi secret police. A Florida state lawmaker wrote that FBI agents operating there “should be arrested on sight.”
House lawmakers asked the companies to provide information on the number of threats they had identified against federal law enforcement, how many they had taken down and reported to authorities, and whether they were directly related to the search for Mar-a-Lago. The letters also asked for information on the companies’ approaches to removing threats from their platforms.
In the 24 hours after the Mar-a-Lago search, Twitter saw a tenfold increase in posts mentioning “civil war,” according to Dataminr, a tool that analyzes Twitter data. On Telegram, a messaging platform that lawmakers also contacted, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, posted in the hours after the search that “civil war is imminent.”
Truth Social users also posted messages calling for others to take up arms and “defend.” An account matching the name of Ricky W. Shiffer, the Ohio man who tried to break into the FBI’s Cincinnati field office last week and was later killed by law enforcement of exchanging gunfire in a hours-long standoff, posted messages proposing war and inciting others to kill the Feds. agents House lawmakers cited the episode as an example of how online vitriol had led to violence in the real world and pointed to other clear threats to kill FBI agents on sites like Gab.
“Violent rhetoric and personal threats and attacks against law enforcement officers have deadly consequences,” the lawmakers wrote.
Some Republicans have chastised their colleagues for misdeeds against law enforcement and urged a narrower case to defend Mr. Trump. And in a statement last week, Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, defended the bureau’s actions and reported the attacks to law enforcement.
“The baseless attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and do a great disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others,” Wray said. “Violence and threats against law enforcement, including the FBI, are dangerous and should deeply concern all Americans.”