Social Media Site Used by Synagogue Shooter Wages Free Speech Battle Against Big Tech After Losing Platform

Gab.com/Screenshot

Andrew Torba, CEO of Gab.com, has waged a battle against several tech giants, with free speech at the heart of the fight.

The alternative social media site found itself at the intersection of free speech and the power of big tech after it became clear that the gunman from the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting used the site to post anti-Semitic content, warning of his pending attack.

Now, the website finds itself without a platform and their domain host GoDaddy gave them a 24-hour eviction notice to find a new company to host their site.

Several tech giants claim this is an issue of stopping the spread of violence and hate speech, but Torba feels it is all about censorship.

The History of Gab.com:

Torba founded Gab.com as an alternative social media platform for those who feared removal from sites like Twitter. He noticed several prominent political figures were being censored and wanted to provide an alternative platform that would protect free speech.

Watch Fox Business’s profile of Gab.com

Torba specifically noted that he believed the censorship by sites like Facebook and Twitter only impacted conservative viewpoints, allowing hateful content from individuals with other political affiliations to remain on the site. In an email to users, Torba stated:

“Twitter and other platforms police ‘hate speech’ as long as it isn’t against President Trump, white people, Christians, or minorities who have walked away from the Democratic Party. This double standard does not exist on Gab.”

Because Torba founded Gab.com as a sanctuary from censorship, the site quickly became home to people with far-right views, including white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and other beliefs.

The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter

In the hours following the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, many reports began to surface about the murderer who claimed 11 lives.

The gunman reportedly told police that his goal was to “kill Jews,” but that was not the first time he had spoken about his anti-Semitic beliefs. He also discussed them on Gab.com.

In a gab about HIAS, a Jewish group that helps refugees resettle, the gunman wrote:

“HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going it.”

Torba told NPR that he doesn’t know how he could have known that post was foreshadowing the attack, saying:

“I don’t know. Do you see a direct threat in there? Because I don’t. What would you expect us to do with a post like that? You want us to just censor anybody who says the phrase ‘I’m going in’? Because that’s just absurd. And here’s the thing: The answer to bad speech, or hate speech, however you want to define that, is more speech. And it always will be.”

Following the shooting, several anti-Semitic posts were published on Gab.com, including one that read, “Gab is the free speech platform Jews want to destroy.”

Gab.com reports that they worked with the Department of Justice and the FBI to “bring justice to an alleged terrorist.”

“No-Platformed”

Following the shooting, several internet hosts began to move to strip Gab.com of its platform, cutting all ties with the company.

In a lengthy post on their now static website, Torba explained:

“In the midst of [assisting the DOJ and FBI], Gab has been no-platformed by essential internet infrastructure providers at every level,” adding, “As we transition to a new hosting provider Gab will be inaccessible for a period of time. We are working around the clock to get Gab.com back online.”

According to NPR, Gab.com was removed from app stores, hosting providers such as GoDaddy, and payment processors such as PayPal.

In fact, the site was even de-platformed from the blog site Medium when they tried to post their statement about the shooting.

Although the shooter had direct ties to Gab.com, Torba said he “absolutely” would not change his free speech policies.

Torba’s response

Following the de-platforming, Torba explains that he thinks this is nothing but an attack on him because of his political leanings.

Torba completed an interview with NPR, but eventually released the full recording after he was not satisfied with NPR’s coverage.

In the interview, Torba explained that he found his treatment to be unfair because other sites have had similar problems without any comparable backlash.

Listen to Torba’s interview:

“Social media often brings out the best and the worst of humanity, from live-streamed murders on Facebook to threats of violence from the bombing suspect that went unaddressed on Twitter.”

Beyond the de-platforming, Torba also explained that only a small percentage of posts include hateful content, citing a 2018 study.

Torba continued to explain that he doesn’t like the fact that “two or three CEO can decide what is fake news and what isn’t.”

This sentiment has been echoed previously by Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, who in 2017 de-platformed the Daily Stormer, later questioning if that was the right move. “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet. No one should have that power.”

On his now-static site, Torba made it clear that he is going to fight back against the tech giants who wish to de-platform gab.com.

“Gab isn’t going anywhere,” Torba explained. “No-platform us all you want. Ban us all you want. Smear us all you want. You can’t stop an idea.”

It isn’t clear what will become of Gab.com, but it doesn’t look like Torba is willing to go down without a fight.

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