Facebook has gone out of its way to help law enforcement officials identify those who participated in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, the company said in a Thursday conference call with reporters.
“We were appalled by the violence,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy. “We were monitoring the assault in real time and made appropriate referrals to law enforcement to assist their efforts to bring those responsible to account.”
She added that this “includes helping them identify people who posted photos of themselves from the scene, even after the attack was over” and that Facebook is “continuing to share more information with law enforcement in response to valid legal requests.”
Later in the call, a reporter asked Bickert whether the company had done enough to hamper organizing efforts prior to the riot. Bickert argued that Facebook had done a lot on this front.
She said that Facebook has been taking down “militarized social movements” since last summer and deleted calls to bring weapons to the Capitol. Facebook also shut down numerous QAnon groups as well as some content under the slogan “stop the steal.” Bickert said Facebook has removed 3,000 pages and 10,000 groups related to QAnon.
Federal officials are continuing to comb through the vast amount of social media content that was generated on January 6. They’re seeking to identify people who breached the Capitol and tie them to specific criminal acts, like destroying federal property. The federal government has identified more than 200 suspects connected to the riot, a list that will likely grow longer in the coming weeks.
Not only did Facebook refer public social media content to federal officials, it can also turn over the contents of private communications if it receives a legal order to do so. And with so many camera-enabled phones around, many of the people responsible for the carnage are likely to be identified.
While social media posts are an important source of information, officials are also relying on more traditional investigative techniques. In some cases, riot participants have been identified by ex-lovers or estranged family members.