House Judiciary Committee plans contempt of Congress proceedings for Mark Zuckerberg

David Paul Morris

The GOP-led House Judiciary Committee said Tuesday that it plans to take up a resolution that would recommend a contempt of Congress citation for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg over what Republicans insist is the social media company's refusal to comply with a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of censorship.

The panel is scheduled to consider the resolution Thursday, escalating its probe into claims the Biden administration has worked with tech executives to suppress conservative viewpoints.

A copy of the contempt report asserts that Zuckerberg and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, have "willfully refused" to comply in full with a congressional subpoena stemming from the panel's investigation into any efforts by the executive branch to encourage social media companies to moderate content on digital platforms.

The report further alleges that Meta has "played a central role in this censorship scheme, frequently acquiescing and catering to the government’s censorship requests and demands."

Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent subpoenas in February to Apple, Facebook and Google requesting information about content moderation.

In a Fox Business interview Tuesday, Jordan said the committee was seeking internal communications similar to those it had obtained from Twitter, “which talk about when the government was pressuring Twitter trying to get them to take down certain speech.”

“We think the same thing went on in Facebook, but we haven’t got those communications. So that’s what we’ve been pressing for. And if we have to go to contempt on Thursday, we will do that,” he said.

Meta spokesman Andy Stone said the company has offered up several high-level executives for interviews and delivered tens of thousands of documents to committee investigators.

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

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

The House has held former government officials in contempt of Congress in recent years over subpoenas. In 2021, when Democrats were in the majority, the House found former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt over his refusal to answer questions about the Jan 6, 2021, riot. Last year, a jury found former White House strategist Steve Bannon guilty on two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee.

A federal judge this month restricted contact over content moderation between some federal agencies and officials and social media companies after Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri sued to block what they called a "campaign of censorship."

The lawsuit alleged that government officials overstepped in efforts encouraging social media companies to address posts containing protected free speech, particularly as it related to Covid-19 and election practices.

The Biden administration appealed that ruling, and an appeals court temporarily paused the order limiting the communications.