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Senate Democrat tells Facebook to preserve digital evidence from Capitol riot

Senate Democrat tells Facebook to preserve digital evidence from Capitol riot
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Hillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack MORE (D-Va.), the likely incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is calling on mobile carriers and social media companies to preserve content and data connected with Wednesday's pro-Trump riot at the Capitol.

Warner’s office on Saturday announced that the Senate Democrat sent letters to CEOs of 11 companies, including AT&T, Verizon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Parler, telling them to “immediately preserve content and associated meta-data connected to Wednesday’s insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol.”

“The United States Capitol is now a crime scene,” Warner wrote in the letter. “The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are currently investigating the events of that day, and trying to piece together what happened and the perpetrators involved. The prospect of litigation on behalf of the victims of the mayhem also is highly likely.”

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Warner told the CEOs, “Messaging data to and from your subscribers that may have participated in, or assisted, those engaged in this insurrection – and associated subscriber information – are critical evidence in helping to bring these rioters to justice.”

Participants in Wednesday’s mob, which saw rioters overrun Capitol Police and ransack officers throughout the historic building, were documented by many on social media. 

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Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to indefinitely or permanently suspend President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE’s accounts after he issued statements amid and following the chaos at the Capitol that platforms claimed could have provoked further violence. 

The letters from Warner, a former telecommunications entrepreneur, came after he criticized social media companies this week, arguing that the actions platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube took to prevent further distribution of Trump’s disputed claims of a “stolen” election were “too late and not nearly enough.” 

"Disinformation and extremism researchers have for years pointed to broader network-based exploitation of these platforms," Warner, who currently serves as vice chairman of the intelligence committee, said in a statement Thursday. 

Police have already made dozens of arrests in the aftermath of Wednesday’s chaos, and FBI and Justice Department officials said Friday that they are pooling together all resources available to look into hundreds of potential suspects. 

Trump supporters used social media to discuss the possibility of violence in the days leading up to the riot at the Capitol, and experts say that increasingly popular right-wing sites could pose an even greater risk down the road as conspiracy theories could provoke some to take violent action.