WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), incoming Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged mobile carriers and social media companies to immediately preserve content and associated meta-data connected to Wednesday’s insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol.
In all eleven letters to the companies’ CEOs, Sen. Warner emphasized how the rioters took the time to document the event “later posting them to their social media accounts or sharing them via text or mobile messaging platforms to celebrate their disdain for our democratic process.”
“The United States Capitol is now a crime scene,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letters to AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Apple, Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Signal, Telegram, and Twitter.
“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. 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.”
More than 90 people have been arrested since Wednesday when loyalists to outgoing President Donald Trump disrupted lawmakers as they met to confirm the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. People on social media have been trying to identify rioters photographed or filmed at the Capitol Wednesday, pressuring companies that employ them to fire them.
Social media has outed people for their involvement in activities outside of the workplace, landing them in trouble with their employers. In 2017 after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, many posted photos on social media of those who participated, leading in some cases to their firing.
Small businesses are also facing backlash on online review sites such as Yelp, which flagged at least 20 businesses for unusual review activity related to Wednesday’s rioting.
Most private employers can fire workers for attending protests, since First Amendment rights only prohibit people from being punished by the government for their speech, not by a private employer, said Susan Kline, an Indianapolis-based labor and employment attorney at law firm Faegre Drinker.
There are some exceptions: Those who work for the government may be more legally protected, and so too are many unionized workers, who typically have a contract listing the reasons for which they could be fired. And some states may have laws that protect workers’ free speech.
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