Sen. Mark Warner urges Facebook to keep posts as Capitol riot evidence

‘The United States Capitol is now a crime scene’: Sen. Mark Warner urges Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to keep all Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp posts from the riot as evidence

  • Sen. Mark Warner sent Facebook and other Big Tech companies letters Friday
  • He asked them to preserve social media posts and text messages relating to the Capitol riot as evidence against rioters
  • He said the Capitol is a ‘crime scene’ and that law enforcement would likely use the images and messages while bringing rioters to justice

Democratic congressman Sen. Mark Warner is asking Facebook and other Big Tech social media and telecom companies to save digital evidence from Wednesday’s deadly Capitol riot. 

On Saturday, Warner, the incoming Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted out a letter he’d sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  

‘After Wednesday’s insurrectionist attack on our nation’s Capitol, I’m calling on telecom and social media companies to preserve digital evidence of the Capitol riot,’ Warner tweeted, accompanying the letter he sent to Zuckerberg Friday. 

Sen. Mark Warner has sent letters to Big Tech companies including Facebook, asking them to preserve messages and posts relating to the Capitol riot as evidence against rioters

Warner told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left) that he should take steps to identify the evidence on his platforms. Warner (right) is known for being critical of Big Tech

In the letter, Warner, asked that Facebook take steps to ‘immediately preserve any and all posts, communications, videos and other media, meta-data, cloud backups, and subscriber information’ across the social media giant’s Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms that may be related to the ‘insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol.’

‘I encourage you to undertake reasonable measures to identify this content in order to preserve it in connection with, or anticipation of, formal legal process requests you may receive,’ Warner added. 

The senator pointedly noted that the rioters were ‘organized, coordinated, and in many cases broadcast via your communications services and products.’

Which meant that ‘Efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice will inevitably involve digital evidence associated with those products and services.’ 

Warner, known as a critic of Big Tech, added that ‘The United States Capitol is now a crime scene,’ which means that ‘The texts, videos and pictures posted to your platforms – and associated meta-data, cloud backups and subscriber information – are critical evidence in helping to bring these rioters to justice.’

Several people have been arrested – or fired from their companies – after their social media posts from the riots surfaced.    

Facebook posts made by rioters have led to their being fired, like Chicago real estate agent Libby Andrews (left) from jobs or arrested, like West Virginia delegate Derrick Evans

Florida man Adam Johnson was arrested after he was pictured carrying away Nancy Pelosi’s podium during the riots. He appears to have posted this image from the Capitol on Facebook

The Department of Justice said Saturday that three men who allegedly took part in the Capitol riot had been arrested. 

Among them was Adam Johnson, 36, who was photographed carrying the House Speaker’s lectern while smiling and waving, and was arrested by federal marshals in Florida on Friday. 

Johnson appears to have posted a photo of himself on Facebook, in which he’s seems to be standing inside the Capitol building next to a sign that reads ‘Closed to all tours.’ He captioned the photo ‘No.’

Also arrested Friday was West Virginia State House member Derrick Evans, 35, who had run a Facebook Live stream of himself as he entered the Capitol building. Evans, who was recently sworn-in, has now resigned from his office.   

In an interview that ran Friday, Warner told Politco that Big Tech’s seeming reluctance to prevent election disinformation and incitements to violence on their platforms is ‘going to come back and bite ‘em because Congress, in a bipartisan way, is going to come back with a vengeance.’ 

On Saturday, Warner tweeted: ‘I’ve said it before, these platforms have served as core organizing infrastructure for extremist, far-right groups and militia movements for years now – helping them to recruit, organize, coordinate, and in many cases generate profits from their extremist content.’

Warner also sent letters to AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Apple, Gab, Google, Parler, Signal, Telegram and Twitter.

Gab and Parler are right-leaning social media platforms that have risen in profile – and user downloads – following President Trump being permanently banned by Twitter, in the wake of the riot. 

Following Trump’s Twitter ban – a decision made ‘due to the risk of further incitement of violence,’ the company said Friday – Warner noted that it was ‘An overdue step.’

He added that it’s also ‘important to remember, this is much bigger than one person. It’s about an entire ecosystem that allows misinformation and hate to spread and fester unchecked.’

In other letters Warner sent to tech and communications companies Friday, Warner wrote that rioters paused their actions long enough to document the riot and then post them on social media and share them in text messages ‘to celebrate their disdain for our democratic process,’ Reuters reported.  

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