Gab (social network)
Gab's logo as of 2019
Type of site
|Social networking service|
|Founder(s)||Andrew Torba, CEO|
|Alexa rank||10,422 (Global, May 2020[update])|
|Registration||Required to post|
|Launched||August 15, 2016 (private beta)|
May 8, 2017 (open registration)
July 4, 2019 (switch to customized Mastodon fork and relaunched)
Gab is an English-language social media website known for its far-right userbase. The site has been widely described as a "safe haven" for extremists including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right.
The site was launched in 2017 and claimed to have almost 1,000,000 registered user accounts by July 2019. It has been noted to attract far-right and alt-right users and groups who have been banned from other social networks. The platform populace is primarily "conservative, male, and Caucasian". As of 2018[update], the site's most-followed users included high-profile, far-right figures such as Richard B. Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and Alex Jones. Gab recognizes far-right websites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars as competitors, according to a March 2018 financial filing.
Gab claims to stand for free speech and individual liberty,[a] though these claims have been criticized for being a shield of the alt-right ecosystem. Antisemitism is a prominent part of the site's content, and the platform itself has engaged in antisemitic commentary. Researchers have written that Gab is "known to be hateful".
The site gained extensive public scrutiny following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018, as Robert Gregory Bowers, the sole suspect, posted a message on Gab indicating an immediate intent to do harm before the shooting. Bowers had a history of making extreme, antisemitic postings on the site. After a backlash from hosting providers, Gab briefly went offline.
In February 2019, Gab launched Dissenter, a browser extension and website that allows Gab users to make comments on content hosted on any website via an overlay visible only to those logged into Dissenter or using the extension, and thus bypass their individual moderation practices. In April 2019, Dissenter was removed from the Firefox Add-ons website and the Chrome Web Store for violation of their policies. In July 2019, Gab switched its software infrastructure to a fork of Mastodon, a free and open-source social network platform. Mastodon released a statement in protest, denouncing Gab as trying to monetize racism under claims of free speech.
Gab was launched on August 15, 2016, in private beta, billing itself as a "free speech" alternative to social networking sites Twitter and Facebook. Co-founder and CEO Andrew Torba has cited "the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly" and an alleged bias against conservative articles by Facebook as his reasons for creating the site. Gab AI, Inc. was incorporated on September 6, 2016.
Torba said in November 2016 that the site's user base had expanded significantly following censorship controversies involving major social media companies, including the permanent suspensions of several prominent alt-right accounts from Twitter.
In December 2016, Apple Inc. declined Gab's submission of its app to the iOS App Store, citing pornographic content as the reason. At the same time, Twitter also cut off Gab's access to the Twitter API without specifying a reason. A revised version of the app that blocked pornography by default was also rejected for violating Apple's rules on hate speech.
In March 2017, Gab added Pro accounts and on May 8, 2017, Gab exited private beta testing. Also in May, Gab launched its Android app for the Google Play Store. In August 2017, GabTV, a live-streaming service, was launched for GabPro members. On August 17, Google removed Gab's app from the Google Play Store for violating its policy against hate speech, stating that the app did not, "demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people." On September 14, 2017, Gab filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google but dropped the suit on October 22, 2017, in favor of lobbying Congress to take action against "monopolized tech giants".
In September 2017, Gab moved its headquarters to Pennsylvania. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, as late as March 2018, stated that Torba operated Gab out of a WeWork coworking space in Philadelphia. A WeWork spokesperson said that Torba had become a member under his own name, not Gab's, and that his time there had been brief. In late October, 2018, a Gab spokesperson told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Gab was no longer based in Philadelphia.
In September 2017, Gab faced pressure from its domain registrar Asia Registry to take down a post by The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, giving Gab 48 hours to do so. Gab later removed the post. Danny O'Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation commented that this pressure was part of an increase in politically motivated domain name seizures.
On August 9, 2018, Torba announced that Microsoft Azure, Gab's host, had threatened to suspend the site for "weeks/months" if they failed to remove two antisemitic posts made by Patrick Little, a U.S. Senate candidate who had been ejected from the Republican Party for his antisemitism. According to The Verge, the posts "express intense anti-Semitism and meet any reasonable definition of hate speech." Gab's Twitter account asserted that Little had self-deleted the posts, but this was contradicted by Torba who said Gab itself had deleted the posts which "unquestionably" broke their "user guidelines". On the same day, Alex Jones interviewed Torba on The Alex Jones Show during his coverage of his own permanent ban from YouTube. Little was suspended indefinitely from Gab in late November, 2018 for encouraging harassment of private individuals; Gab stressed that although Little's account had posted hate speech, it was not the cause of the ban.
According to Gab's filings with the SEC, around 635,000 users were registered on Gab by September 10, 2018. On September 12, 2018, Gab purchased the Gab.com domain name from Sedo for $220,000 at Flippa.
In early-October 2018, Gab's Stripe account was suspended due to adult content on Gab. During the 2018 Brazilian presidential election, many right-wing Brazilian political pages were banned from Facebook for breaching the site's hate speech rules. In response, many administrators of these pages began promoting Gab as an alternative platform; subsequently, Brazilians became the second-largest demographic of Gab users. Jair Bolsonaro's party, the Social Liberal Party, has an official Gab account. In December 2018, Gab sponsored Turning Point USA's "Student Action Summit" in Palm Beach, Florida. Days before the event, Turning Point USA removed Gab from the list of sponsors without explanation. Gab posted a press statement in protest.
The company turned to cryptocurrency payment processing services after being rejected from PayPal and Stripe in the aftermath of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. In January 2019, Coinbase and Square, Inc.'s Cash App closed the accounts held by Gab and Andrew Torba. On January 22, 2019, Gab announced that it had partnered with Second Amendment Processing (SAP), a Michigan-based payment processor. Gab removed SAP's credit card payment functionalities in March 2019, only accepting payment via cryptocurrency or check. The same month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published an investigation that found that SAP's founder had been convicted of financial crimes in 2007. Gab has not said why it removed the payment processor.
The SPLC reported on January 24, 2019, that Gab has misrepresented its services and bloated its user count in its filings and promotional materials. The GabTV service advertised on its StartEngine crowdfunding page as of January 2019[ref] was only active very briefly in early 2018, and also as of January 2019[update], the dedicated page for the service is blank. Unlike other social media companies, Gab did not publish the count of its active users in 2018 and only reported registered accounts. Social media intelligence company Storyful found 19,526 unique usernames had posted content during a seven-day period between January 9 and January 16, 2019, far lower than Gab's claimed 850,000 registered users. Users of the site commonly mocked Torba for the site's emptiness, with some accusing him of inflating user numbers. In a December 2018 filing, the company reported that 5,000 users were paying for its subscription services.
Shortly after the SPLC published its January report on Gab's misleading statements and financial struggles, the site made its Twitter account private until January 30, 2019, and switched to an invitation-only mode for new user registrations on January 30. Gab stated that switching to an invitation-only mode was an experiment to improve user experience. Gab previously had intermittent service outages for a week. Gab said that the outages were caused by bot attacks and blamed state actors along with paid "activist bloggers". Torba shared a post from another user that suggested that the "deep state" was responsible. The Daily Beast opined that this was an attempt to further obfuscate its numbers in response to reports that it had inflated its user count.
As of January 2019[update], Gab pays Sibyl Systems Ltd. $1,175 a month for webhosting. The SPLC reported on February 14, 2019, that a software engineer for Sibyl Systems rejected Gab's claim of having more than 835,000 users and estimated the count to be in the range of a few thousands to a few tens of thousands. Sibyl Systems denied the statement via Twitter, saying that the employee did not have access to the secure data and that the employee had been dismissed.
On July 4, Gab switched its software infrastructure to run on a forked version of Mastodon, a free and open-source decentralized social network platform. The change attempted to circumvent the rejection of Gab's mobile app from the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store, as Gab users gained access to the social network through third-party Mastodon apps that did not subsequently block Gab. Mastodon released a statement the same day denouncing Gab as "seek[ing] to monetize and platform racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech" and "attempt[ing] to hijack our infrastructure", and said that they had "already taken steps to isolate Gab and keep hate speech off the fediverse." Mastodon stated that most Mastodon instances had blocked Gab's domains, preventing interactions between these instances and Gab, and that Tusky and Toot!, two popular Mastodon mobile apps, had already blacklisted Gab's domains and banned Gab users from using their app. Mastodon also stated that by paywalling features that are otherwise freely accessible in other instances, Gab "offer users no incentive to choose their platform" and "puts itself at a disadvantage compared to any Mastodon instance." However, Gab does offer features which Mastodon doesn't have, such as groups.
On February 24, 2019, Gab launched a browser extension and website called Dissenter, which allows users of Gab to make comments about any webpage including news articles, YouTube videos, and individual social media posts. It is a social news aggregation and discussion service, created to allow commenting on any webpage outside of the site owner's control.
Dissenter describes itself as "a free, open-source utility that allows people to dissent from orthodoxy and express what they are really thinking, without fear of reprisal". It was developed as a response to multiple social media platforms' and online news sites' moderation practices, which involve removal of individual comments or deleting or disabling comment sections altogether. Users with registered Gab accounts may submit content to Dissenter in the form of a URL to a page on which they want to comment. This creates a discussion page where users can post a comment (or "Dissent"), and the comments can be up- or down-voted by other users of the site. By using the Dissenter browser extension, users may read and post comments in an overlay while viewing page content. The Dissenter website also features a news ticker on which users can follow current events.
Shortly after its launch, fans of British far-right activist Tommy Robinson began using Dissenter to comment on a BBC News article about Robinson's ban from social media websites following the removal of Mohammed's Koran, by Robinson and Peter McLoughlin, from Amazon. After Rotten Tomatoes announced that it would be removing its comment section on their review page for the Captain Marvel film due to concerns that trolls had planned to flood it with negative reviews, users of Dissenter used it to comment about the movie and Rotten Tomatoes' decision to remove comments.
In a 20-minute Periscope video accompanying the launch, Andrew Torba said that he expected Dissenter to be banned from extension stores and mentioned that Gab might build its own web browser in the future that has Dissenter built in. In April 2019, Mozilla removed the Dissenter extension from the Firefox Add-ons website for violations of Mozilla's acceptable use policy that prohibits hate speech. In a statement to the Columbia Journalism Review, a Mozilla spokesperson said: "Mozilla does not endorse hate speech, and we do not permit our platforms to be used to promote such content." On April 11, Google removed the Dissenter extension from the Chrome Web Store. Later in April, the Gab team forked the Brave browser in order to bundle Dissenter – a move which Brendan Eich criticized as unnecessary.
Following the extension's launch, Ana Valens of The Daily Dot described it as an "extension for the alt-right" to "mobilize against journalists, critics, and progressive websites." Saqib Shah of Engadget called Dissenter "a far-right comments section on every site" and Gab's "latest attempt at attracting fringe voices." Izabella Kaminska wrote in the Financial Times: "There is a clear demand for this sort of freedom. Some argue the concept is therefore a billion dollar idea with the potential to completely disrupt conventional media's control of its comment real estate"; in a follow-up article two weeks later, she added: "... much horror still lurks on Dissenter – including hateful and anti-Semitic opinions that need challenging. This is precisely why it would be wrong to ignore the application. Doing so would encourage the build-up of silos that feed on their own twisted perspectives."
Users and content
The site has been noted to attract far-right or alt-right users who have been banned or suspended from other services. High-profile participants include former Breitbart writer and polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos; former British National Party leader Nick Griffin; Australian neo-Nazis Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson; and white supremacists Richard B. Spencer, Tila Tequila, Vox Day, and Christopher Cantwell. Far-right political parties and party candidates, including Britain First and UKIP candidates such as Mark Meechan and Carl Benjamin, are other prominent participants.
Gab CEO Andrew Torba was himself removed from the Y Combinator alumni network because of harassment concerns, starting when he used "build the wall" on Twitter alongside a screenshot of a post by a Latino founder that read: "being a black, Muslim or woman in the USA is going to be very scary". Until 2016, Torba was registered as a Democrat, although he voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans.
Torba has stated that Gab is "not designed specifically for conservatives" and has stated that "we welcome everyone and always will". In filings made with the SEC in March 2018, Gab stated that its target market is "conservative, libertarian, nationalists and populist internet users around the world", and listed far-right conspiracy theorist websites Breitbart News and InfoWars as its main competitors. He stated: "We want everyone to feel safe on Gab, but we're not going to police what is hate speech and what isn't."
In early 2018, a cross-university group released a research study on posts made to the site. According to that study, the site hosted a high volume of racism and hate speech, and primarily "attracts alt-right users, conspiracy theorists, and other trolls." The study listed Carl Benjamin, Ann Coulter, Alex Jones, Stefan Molyneux, Lauren Southern, and Paul Joseph Watson as some of the more popular users of the site. The authors also performed an automated search using Hatebase and found "hate words" in 5.4% of Gab posts, which they stated was 2.4 times higher than their occurrence on Twitter but less than half that found on /pol/, a political discussion board on 4chan. The authors of the study stated in their conclusion that while anyone can join Gab, the site is aligned with the alt-right and its use of free speech rhetoric "merely functions as a shield for its alt-right users to hide behind."
Another research study in late 2018 concluded that Gab is filled with extremist users. The study found that 35% of Gab users followed at least one extremist individual listed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the SPLC. It found Gab profiles for 61% of the 36 individuals in the ADL's list of "alt-right" and "alt-lite" personalities. The number of posts and followers of these extremist Gab users far exceeds that of average Gab users, indicating that they are more active in the system. Among Gab's users, a majority are "conservative, male, and Caucasian." The study showed a great variety in the domains of URLs that are shared on Gab, and found that most of these domains are not popular in other social media or other parts of the Internet. A portion of these domains are known for spreading politics-related news. This led the researchers to the conclusion that Gab "has become an echo chamber for right-leaning content dissemination."
A report issued by the ADL and the Network Contagion Research Institute on March 12, 2019, found that when Twitter bans "extremist voices", Gab's user base grows.
Former Gab users include white nationalist political candidate Paul Nehlen, who was removed from the site for doxing the man behind the "Ricky Vaughn" Twitter account, and hacker, internet troll, and former Daily Stormer writer Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, who was banned for calling for genocide against Jews and endorsing terrorist Timothy McVeigh. Auernheimer's activity prompted threats from Gab's then webhost Asia Registry to remove the comments or they would refuse to host the site. Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi activist who "once drove a significant amount of interaction on the small site," was banned from the site in March 2019 after using the site to advocate in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings that future mass killers should target and murder left-wing activists, instead of "random people in mosques and synagogues," in order to effectively silence left-wing activism.
Following the Christchurch mosque shootings and a lowered tolerance on other social media for hate speech, several members of United Patriots Front, an Australian far-right extremist organization, urged their supporters to follow them on Gab after being banned from Twitter and Facebook.
Antisemitism and violence
Rita Katz, a researcher and analyst of terrorism and extremism, wrote in Politico Magazine that Robert Bowers' extreme antisemitic postings are "anything but an anomaly" on the website, and, "[they highlight] concerns about its growing facilitation of white nationalism and other far-right movements." Gab user profiles often contain Nazi symbolism, and Stormfront users have praised the site as a place to post antisemitic content. Katz found that many Gab users were celebrating immediately after Bowers' massacre against the Tree of Life synagogue, and wrote that far-right communities' rise to popularity on Gab is "remarkably similar" to the rise of ISIS on social media. Joshua Fisher-Birch of the Counter Extremism Project has said: “Gab has always been attractive to fascist and neo-Nazi groups that advocate violence."
The Jewish Chronicle in London found material on the site accusing Jews of responsibility for the September 11 attacks. After setting up a fake account on Gab, the newspaper's journalist Ben Weich was quickly "presented with a steady stream of Holocaust denial, antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories – as well as those venerating Adolf Hitler." Posts he discovered included at least one user who used a swastika as their profile picture and stated, "The parasitic Jews will fully deserve the genocide that's coming upon them," and "They do not deserve mercy, expulsion will never fix a rat problem, extermination does." The non-profit left-wing media collective Unicorn Riot discovered that individual Gab users led by alt-right figure Brittany Pettibone organized on the video game chat and voice room platform Discord and that some of the discussions centered on antisemitism and achieving "ethno-nationalism."
The Gab platform itself has engaged in antisemitic commentary. In August 2018, in response to a post calling for the shutdown of the site, the platform's Twitter account responded with a post suggesting that it is unsurprising for a person with a Jewish last name to oppose "free speech" and followed up with a citation to a Bible verse (Revelation 3:9) that referred to Jewish nonbelievers of Jesus Christ as members of the "synagogue of Satan". On October 31, 2018, The Washington Post pointed to two messages on the Gab Twitter account and wrote that they "raise questions about whether they cross the line into impropriety." One captioned a photo of two men, one with Jewish sidelocks, with "I'm calling the cops on both and getting my shotgun ready, just saying" and another argued for opposition to immigration by saying: "Let a bunch of Somalians migrate to your neighborhood and see if you change your mind." Torba initially questioned the authenticity of the posts, suggesting they might be doctored images, later saying the posts were "clearly satire/comedy . . . to get people discussing the importance of free expression for satire, comedy, political discourse, and legitimate criticism," and then later saying they were, "a few edgy tweets posted by interns." The tweets were later deleted.
In addition to allowing Holocaust denial and other forms of antisemitism, Gab has been used as a recruitment tool by several neo-Nazi and alt-right groups, including Identity Evropa, Patriot Front, and the Atomwaffen Division, a terrorist organization tied to a number of murders. In 2018, threats by a Gab user against an African-American member of the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee that included pictures of weapons and racial slurs prompted a police investigation, although no charges were ultimately filed. The user's previous posts had included one that asked: "Why aren’t we organizing and killing leftists in droves?"
Terrorism researcher and Queen's University professor Amarnath Amarasingam has said that Gab's position as neither an extremely mainstream service nor an obscure dark web network has allowed extremists to permeate the website and access an audience they would not be able to have on a more popular service, where they would be banned. He says this has allowed domestic terrorism organizations to grow within Gab's far right user base. Amarasingam has compared the messaging by these organizations on Gab to early ISIS recruitment efforts, involving tactics like sharing violent propaganda and establishing underground communication methods with potential members.
Gab has denied that terror groups flourish on the website, saying in a statement to Motherboard: "We don't want them, we strongly discourage them from joining and we ban them when they cross the line, as they often do." However, Ben Makuch of Motherboard wrote that neo-Nazi terrorist groups have "enjoyed months-long, unfettered stints posting their content on Gab to a significant audience." In addition to calls for terrorist attacks, mass killings against minorities, offline armed training recruitments and white supremacist propaganda accumulated on Gab, Makuch pointed to one Gab post, from a user who is a member of an multinational militant network on Gab connected to the Atomwaffen Division, that had explicitly called for its followers to attack electric grids. Other content posted by the network included explicit calls for sympathizers to join local neo-Nazi organizations and commit violence against Muslim and Jewish communities. In June 2019, two British men was arrested on terror offences for posting propaganda on Gab calling for their followers to assassinate Prince Harry.
2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
Robert Gregory Bowers, the sole suspected shooter in the attack against a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, maintained an active, verified Gab account where he displayed the neo-Nazi code-phrase "1488" and a bio that said, "jews are the children of satan." Just prior to the shooting, he used this account to post "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."
After Bowers was arrested, Gab suspended his profile and contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On October 27, 2018, soon after the shooting, PayPal, GoDaddy, and Medium terminated their relationship with Gab, and PayPal released a statement that it had it done so based on its review of accounts that may engage in the "perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance". Later on the same day, Gab announced on Twitter that Joyent, Gab's hosting provider, would terminate their service on October 29 at 9:00 am ET. The tweet said that the site expected to be down for weeks. Stripe and Backblaze also terminated their services with Gab after the shooting.
Gab had defended itself from criticism as a result of the shooting, saying that they: "refuse to be defined by the media’s narratives about Gab and our community. Gab’s mission is very simple: to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people. Social media often brings out the best and the worst of humanity." Since the shooting, Gab has received substantial media attention, having been relatively unknown by the general public prior to the attack.
After the site was taken down, Gab's homepage was changed to a message saying it was down due to being "under attack" and being "systematically no-platformed", adding that Gab would be inaccessible for a "period of time". Gab returned online on November 4, 2018 after Epik agreed to register the domain. Rob Monster, the CEO of Epik, had defended Gab's neo-Nazi users and said that neo-Nazis on Gab are actually "liberal trolls" looking to "give enemies of freedom an excuse." On Gab, Christopher Cantwell replied to Monster's claims, stating: "We're not liberals, nor are the people trying to get us censored. The people trying to censor Gab are (((communists))), and the Nazis are the only ones willing to take them on...Eventually, everyone will have to pick a side."
In January 2019, federal prosecutors filed 13 additional counts of hate crime charges against Robert Bowers under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, citing multiple antisemitic posts Bowers made on Gab during the span of more than two weeks prior to the shooting. Bowers is indicted with a total count of 63 charges, facing a maximum possible penalty of life without parole, and subsequent consecutive sentence of 250 years' imprisonment. Surpassing 22 counts of superseding indictment, Bowers is eligible for the death penalty.
Gab has been described as "Twitter for racists" by Salon, a "hate-filled echo chamber of racism and conspiracy theories" by The Guardian, an "online cesspool of anti-Semitism" by Politico Magazine, a "safe haven for banned Twitter trolls, Gamergaters, Pizzagaters and high-profile white nationalists" by Mic, and "the far-right’s favorite social network" by The Verge. Wired criticized Gab for not explicitly prohibiting hate speech. Scholars have described Gab as "hateful", and named Gab along with 4chan and 8chan as directly radicalizing men who went on to commit violent acts. The SPLC characterized Gab as a site where its users are "radicalized aggressively". Heidi Beirich, a director of the center, stated that the site is "the number one place nowadays where white supremacists gather". The ADL called Gab a "fringe online community" and "a bastion of hatred and bigotry."
Harrison Kaminsky in Digital Trends questioned the site's longevity in September 2016, writing: "While the site’s initial popularity is impressive, the potential is most likely short-lived, following the life cycle of social networks like Ello or Peach, which faded over time." Maya Kosoff in Vanity Fair wrote: "the point of Gab may not be to grow to be a Twitter competitor ... it’s providing a 'safe space' for people who want to express themselves without consequence". Amanda Hess, a critic at The New York Times, opined in November 2016 that the site is: "a throwback to the freewheeling norms of the old internet, before Twitter started cracking down on harassment and Reddit cleaned out its darkest corners. And since its debut in August, it has emerged as a digital safe space for the far right, where white nationalists, conspiracy-theorist YouTubers, and minivan majority moms can gather without liberal interference."
Michael Edison Hayden, an open-source intelligence analyst and investigative reporter on extremism and disinformation, opined in a Gizmodo interview in October 2018: "Andrew Torba, the CEO of Gab, will get angry when people ... call his site a white nationalist website or an alt-right website but anyone who spends time on it knows that it’s a haven for extremists, [...] Violent white supremacist groups like Patriot Front and Atomwaffen Division organize out in the open on Gab. Users frequently call for the murder of women, Jews and other minorities on Gab, and are rewarded with likes and reposts. [...] Dylann Roof is treated as a hero by many Gab users." Hayden noted that Gab was "rife with" content similar to that posted by Robert Bowers', with many users posing in his support using the hashtag #HeroRobertBowers.
Joe Setyon reviewed the social network for Reason, writing: "in fighting the alleged left-leaning political bias of the legacy social media platforms, Gab ran into the opposite problem." He suggested that the website was only for those who "subscribe to a certain radical subset of right-wing beliefs or are interested in seeing the feeds of those who do." Nicholas Thompson of Wired questioned the sincerity of the site's claim to be a defender for "free speech" in October 2018, writing: "To many people, Torba's First Amendment absolutism is just a talking point. The site exists less to defend the ideals of Benjamin Franklin than those of Christopher Cantwell. It chose as its logo a creature that looks rather like Pepe, the alt-right attack frog. It courted people on the far right, and it became a haven for them. Free speech can be less a principle than a smokescreen." Thompson noted that Robert Bowers likely expected affirmation from his last message that indicated his intent to carry out the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, leading Thompson to the conclusion: "if it’s a platform where someone can expect affirmation for threatening slaughter, then why should anyone help it exist?"
Kelly Weill of The Daily Beast wrote in January 2019: "Gab has always been a bad website. Nothing loads, the search function is a joke, and its member rolls are riddled with porn bots. And that's even without the neo-Nazis posting racist memes and goading each other to murder."
Gab does not use advertising, describing itself as an "ad-free social network". The site began offering a premium subscription service for Gab named "GabPro" in mid-March 2017. The subscription allowed users to have private chats for up to 25 people; private chat with a maximum of two users was later added for all users, and the GabPro limit was increased to 50. Private messages are deleted after 24 hours. GabPro subscribers can also view a topic breakdown for other users, make lists of users to sort their home feed, livestream on GabTV (though this has since been removed), and more easily get their profile verified. Subscribers also get a "PRO" badge next to their posts. In July 2017, Gab also started an investment project which met its goal of $1.07 million on August 19, 2017.
Gab has lost more than $350,000 from 2016 to 2018. The company relied on the online crowdfunding broker StartEngine starting in 2017, through which it raised $2 million. In April 2019, Gab announced that StartEngine had removed them from their platform and that they intended to sue StartEngine over unreturned fees.[better source needed]
Gab reported in a December 2018 filing that removal from PayPal and Stripe following the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting had caused a 90% drop in its subscription revenue. It has since relied on mail and cryptocurrency for subscription payment processing; the company partnered with the "obscure" Second Amendment Processing for credit card payment processing in January 2019, but removed credit card payment options in March 2019. This removal came after an SPLC investigation published in early-March 2019 found Thomas Michael Troyer, founder of Second Amendment Processing, was convicted of financial crimes in 2007.
The company's Regulation A exempt offering of $10 million has been pending approval by the SEC since 2017. Two analysts contacted by the SPLC commented that this might suggest that "the SEC has concerns about allowing the sale to go forward". Heidi Beirich noted an unusual lack of communication records with the SEC regulators in Gab's financial filings, unlike those of similar companies. In a March 2019 SEC filing, Gab "abruptly" withdrew its request for stock sales, explaining that "[the company] has decided to seek other capital raising alternatives." Torba did not respond to SPLC inquiries regarding the withdrawal.
Gab's color theme is a minimalist combination of black text on white panels with pink hashtags and usernames. Pro users have a contrasted top bar in dark blue. The interface displays messages in a Twitter-like vertical scroll timeline with an option to upvote each post. The site also aggregates popular posts and trending topic hashtags. Users of the site with a score higher than 250 can downvote posts, but must spend points to do so.
Users can sort comments and posts in a subject by time or score. Default biographies for new users display a randomly chosen quotation about the importance of free speech. Users also have the option to "mute" other users and terms. The default profile picture for new users to the site features NPC Wojak, a meme popular on far-right sites. The site offers its users an option to delete their entire posting history in a single click.
When writing a gab, users can post up to 3,000 characters of plain text, with the first 300 appearing in the timeline along with an option to read the rest.
In July 2017, Gab implemented a system where people who downvoted others (through spamming) would have their accounts downvoted as well and their ability to leave downvotes would be revoked. Downvotes were later removed entirely, with Gab's then-COO Utsav Sanduja explaining that they were being used to troll and to harass women, and that: "there were a lot of social justice warriors and members of the far left coming into our site essentially trying to start a brouhaha."
A frog named "Gabby" was Gab's logo from 2016 to 2018. The logo has been compared to Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character appropriated by the alt-right. Torba denied that the frog logo was a reference to Pepe and stated that the logo was inspired by Bible verses (Exodus 8:1–12 and Psalms 78:45) and various other traditional symbolic meanings. Sanduja said that the frog was meant to symbolize the "revenge against those who went against mainstream conservative voices on the internet." As of September 2018, the frog logo is no longer used.
- Andrew Torba on August 11, 2018: "Free speech means you can offend, criticize, and make memes about any race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation"
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