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Gab (social network)

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Gab AI, Inc.
Gab text logo.svg
Type of site
Social networking service
Available inEnglish
Headquarters,
Founder(s)Andrew Torba
Ekrem Büyükkaya[2]
IndustryInternet
Websitegab.com
Alexa rankIncrease 17,466 (Global, April 2019)[3]
RegistrationRequired to post
LaunchedAugust 15, 2016; 2 years ago (August 15, 2016) (private beta)
May 8, 2017; 23 months ago (May 8, 2017) (open registration)
Current statusActive
Written inPHP, Laravel[4]

Gab is an English-language social media website that is known for its mainly far-right user base.[8] The site has been described as "extremist friendly"[9] or a "safe haven"[10] for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right.[9] The site allows its users to read and write multimedia messages of up to 3,000 characters, called "gabs".[11] It has stated that conservative, libertarian, nationalist and populist internet users were its target markets.[12]

Gab promotes itself as a vehicle for "free speech" and for "the free flow of information online";[a][14] this self-promotion has been criticized by scholars as "merely a shield behind which its alt-right users hide",[15] and "an echo chamber for right-leaning content dissemination".[16] Gab is a favorite of, and primarily attracts, far-right or "alt-right" users who have been banned from other social networks.[19] A majority of Gab's users are white, a majority are male, and a majority are conservative.[16] Antisemitism is a prominent part of the site's content,[22] and the platform itself has engaged in antisemitic commentary.[12][23] The only restrictions on expression on the site are on threats of violence, promotion of terrorism, child pornography, revenge porn, doxing and spamming.[24][25]

Gab reported 850,000 registered user accounts in December 2018, although Storyful found that only 19,526 unique usernames had posted content during a seven-day period between January 9 and January 16, 2019.[26] As of 2018, the site's most-followed users included high-profile far-right figures such as Richard B. Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and Alex Jones.[15][16] The site recognizes far-right websites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars as competitors, according to an early 2018 financial filing.[12]

The site gained extensive public scrutiny following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018, as Robert Gregory Bowers, the perpetrator of the massacre, posted a message indicating an immediate intent to harm before the shooting; Bowers had a history of making extreme, antisemitic postings on Gab.[23][9] After a backlash from hosting providers, Gab briefly went offline.[27][28]

In February 2019, Gab launched Dissenter, a browser extension and website which allows users of Gab to make comments on content hosted on any website.[29][30] It was developed to allow its users to avoid websites' moderation practices, which sometimes involve removal of individual comments or deleting or disabling comment sections altogether.[30] In April 2019, Dissenter was removed from the Firefox Add-ons website and from the Chrome Web Store for violation of their policies.[31]

History

Gab

2016–2018

Gab was launched on August 15, 2016 in private beta, billing itself as a "free speech" alternative to the social networking site Twitter.[11][17][18][32][33] Co-founder and CEO Andrew Torba cited "the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly"[11] as part of the inspiration for Gab, which he created "after reading reports that Facebook employees suppress conservative articles".[5] Torba said in November that the site's user base had expanded significantly following censorship controversies involving major social media companies,[34] including the permanent suspensions from Twitter of several prominent alt-right accounts.[35]

In December 2016, Apple declined Gab.ai'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.[36][37] A resubmitted version of the app which blocked pornography by default was also rejected for violating Apple's rules on hate speech.[38]

In mid-March 2017, Gab added Pro accounts and on May 8, 2017, Gab exited private beta testing and opened publicly.[32] Also in May, Gab launched its Android app for the Google Play Store.[32]

In August 2017, GabTV, a live-streaming service, was launched for GabPro members.[39] It was described by The Federalist as a service for creating Periscope-like video streaming channels.[40] According to Torba, the site was hit with a DDoS attack soon afterwards.[41]

On August 17, 2017, Google removed Gab's app from the Google Play Store for violating its policy against hate speech.[37] Google stated that the app did not "demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people."[42] In September 2017, Gab filed an antitrust suit against Google for their removal of the app[43] but dropped the suit on October 22, 2017.[44]

In September 2017, Gab faced pressure from its domain registrar to take down a post by The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin.[6] Danny O'Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation commented that this pressure was part of an increase in politically-motivated domain name seizures.[45]

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.[46][47][48] According to The Verge, the posts "express intense anti-Semitism and meet any reasonable definition of hate speech."[48] According to Gab's Twitter account, Little deleted the posts, but this was contradicted by Torba who said Gab itself had deleted the posts which "unquestionably" did break "our user guidelines". Little said the complaint was a violation of an American's rights.[49] On the same day, Alex Jones interviewed Torba on The Alex Jones Show during his coverage of his own permanent ban from YouTube.[50] 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.[51]

According to Gab's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, around 635,000 users were registered on Gab by September 10, 2018.[52]

On September 12, 2018, Gab purchased the Gab.com domain name from Sedo for $220,000 at Flippa.[53][54]

Gab has used the address of a WeWork coworking space in Philadelphia in SEC filings. 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 October 2018, a Gab spokesperson told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Gab was at that point no longer based in Philadelphia.[55]

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.[56][57][58][59]

In December 2018, Gab sponsored Turning Point USA's "Student Action Summit" in Palm Beach, Florida. Days prior to the event, Turning Point USA removed Gab from the list of sponsors without offering an explanation. Gab posted a press statement in protest.[60][61]

2019

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.[62][63] On January 22, 2019, Gab announced that it had partnered with Second Amendment Processing (SAP), a Michigan-based payment processor.[64] Gab removed SAP's credit card payment functionalities in March 2019, only accepting payment via cryptocurrency or check. The same month the SPLC published an investigation which found that SAP's founder had been convicted of financial crimes in 2007. Gab has not said why they removed the payment processor.[65]

The Southern Poverty Law Center (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 that is advertised on its StartEngine crowdfunding page as of January 2019 was only active very briefly in early 2018, and also as of January 2019, 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 Andrew Torba for the site's emptiness, with some accused him of buoying user numbers. In a December 2018 filing, the company reported that 5,000 users are paying for its subscription services.[26]

As of January 2019, Gab pays Sibyl Systems Ltd. $1,175 a month to provide them with webhosting.[26] In February 2019, a software engineer for Gab’s web hosting company Sibyl Systems Ltd. told the SPLC that, contrary to Gab's claim in SEC filings that it has more than 835,000 users, "Based on what they are getting through us services-wise there is no way they have 800,000 users, or it would be very odd if they did. I would say they probably have a few thousand or a few tens of thousands."[66] Sibyl Systems responded to the statement via Twitter, calling it "categorically false" and said the "employee claimed to leak information that she could not have had access to, due to Sibyl's robust security features designed to protect customer data. We have dismissed the employee."[67]

Shortly after the SPLC published its report on Gab's misleading statements and financial struggles, the site made its Twitter account private for 4 days, and switched to an invitation-only mode for new user registrations. Gab stated that this was an experiment to improve user experience. Gab previously had intermittent service outages for a week. Gab claimed that the outages were caused by bot attacks and, without providing evidence, suggested the outages were possibly caused by state actors or a paid team, referring to the latter as "activist bloggers". Andrew Torba shared a post from another user that suggested that the "deep state" was responsible. The Daily Beast noted that this was an attempt to further obfuscate its numbers, in response to reports that it had inflated its user count.[68][69]

In April 2019, Gab tweeted that StartEngine had banned them from its crowdfunding platform in March and refused to return $150,000 in fees Gab paid to them.[70] In response to this, Gab announced their intention to sue StartEngine.[70]

Dissenter

Dissenter
Dissenter logo
Initial releaseFebruary 24, 2019; 57 days ago (2019-02-24)
TypeBrowser extension, website
Alexa rank42,719 (Global, April 2019 [dissenter.com])[71]
Websitedissenter.com

On February 24, 2019,[29] 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.[30][72] It is a social news aggregation and discussion service,[30] created to allow commenting on any webpage outside of the site owner's control.[30]

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".[73][74] 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.[30] 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.[30] 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.[72]

Shortly after its launch, fans of Tommy Robinson began using Dissenter to comment on a BBC article about Robinson's ban from social media websites following the removal of Mohammed's Koran, by Robinson and Peter McLoughlin, from Amazon.[75] After Rotten Tomatoes announced that it would be removing its comment section on their review page for the Captain Marvel film, users of Dissenter used it to comment about the movie and Rotten Tomatoes' decision to remove comments.[72]

In February, 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.[30][76] On April 10, Mozilla removed the Dissenter extension from the Firefox Add-ons website for violating their acceptable use policy.[77] 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."[78] On April 11, Google removed the Dissenter extension from the Chrome Web Store.[31][79]

Reception

Ana Valens of The Daily Dot wrote, "Dissenter isn’t doing anything new for the internet. It’s just an extension for the alt-right, one to help them mobilize against journalists, critics, and progressive websites."[80] In March 2019 Engadget called Dissenter "a far-right comments section on every site" and Gab's "latest attempt at attracting fringe voices",[81] and 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."[82]

Users and content

Users

The site is a favorite of, and primarily attracts, far-right or alt-right users who have been banned or suspended from other services,[85] including former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos[86] and formerly anonymous Twitter user Douglass Mackey (pseudonym "Ricky Vaughn");[5][35][87] white supremacists such as Richard B. Spencer,[17][5] Tila Tequila,[34] Vox Day,[88] and formerly Christopher Cantwell;[89] as well as far-right political parties including Britain First.[90] Andrew Torba, the CEO of Gab.ai, 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".[91][92] Until 2016, Torba was registered as a Democrat, although he voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans.[10]

Torba has stated that Gab is "not designed specifically for conservatives" and has stated that "we welcome everyone and always will".[34][17] In filings made with the SEC in 2016, 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.[12] He stated that "We want everyone to feel safe on Gab, but we're not going to police what is hate speech and what isn't".[93]

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,[94] and primarily "attracts alt-right users, conspiracy theorists, and other trolls".[95] 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.[15] The authors of the study concluded 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."[94][15]

Another research study in late-2018 concluded that Gab is crowded by 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.[96] 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."[16]

A report issued by the Anti-Defamation League and the Network Contagion Research Institute on March 12, 2019 found that when Twitter bans "extremist voices", Gab's user base grows.[97]

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,[98] and hacker, internet troll, and former Daily Stormer writer Andrew Auernheimer (known as weev), who was banned for calling for genocide against Jews and endorsing terrorist Timothy McVeigh.[45] Auernheimer's activity prompted threats from Gab's then webhost Asia Registry to remove the comments or they would refuse to host the site.[45] Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi activist who "once drove a significant amount of interaction on the small site",[65] 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.[99]

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, have urged their supporters to follow them on Gab after being banned from Twitter and Facebook.[100]

Antisemitism and violence

Rita Katz, a researcher and analyst of terrorism and extremism, wrote on Politico 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.[13]

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." One of the posts discovered came from a user named "Violett Elfenebin", 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 not deserve mercy, expulsion will never fix a rat problem, extermination does."[20] 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."[101]

The Gab platform itself has engaged in antisemitic commentary.[23] 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,"[102] 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".[23][103] 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."[12] 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."[12][23] Torba alternately explained the tweets as possibly fake or doctored, later "clearly satire/ comedy," and then much later, "a few edgy tweets posted by interns."[12] The tweets were later deleted.[23]

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.[102][13] 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?"[104]

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". 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."[105] In the aftermath of the shooting, Gab removed his profile and provided the information to the FBI. On October 27, 2018, soon after the shooting, PayPal, GoDaddy, and Medium terminated their relationship with Gab,[106] 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".[107] Later on the same day, Gab announced on Twitter that Joyent, Gab's hosting provider, would terminate their service on the following Monday. The tweet said that the site expected to be down for weeks.[108][109][110][111]

Gab returned online on November 4, 2018[112] after Epik.com agreed to host the domain.[28] Robert W. "Rob" Monster, Epik.com CEO, 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."[113] Since the shooting, Gab has received substantial media attention, having been relatively unknown by the general public prior to the attack.[114]

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.[115] 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 death penalty.[116]

Jeffrey Clark, neo-Nazi Gab user

Jeffrey Clark, a Washington, D.C. area neo-Nazi, was arrested on November 9, 2018 after his family members alerted law enforcement. Clark, an attendee of the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was affiliated with Richard Spencer and Jack Posobiec as well as Vanguard America, the Proud Boys,[117] and the Atomwaffen Division. Clark was a "friend" of Bowers on Gab, and used Gab to claim that the 2018 mail bombing incidents were "dry run for things to come" and that the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting were all "active supporters of pedophilia" who "deserved exactly what happened". The "pinned" message on Clark's Gab account "DC Bowl Gang" included an altered screenshot from the video game Doom depicting the execution of black people in a church and other allusions to the white supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof, as well as the neo-Nazi code number 1488. Authorities searched Clark's home and found nooses, body armor and a helmet, bullets, a marijuana-growing operation, Nazi and Confederate flags, as well as a flyer promoting the Atomwaffen Division.[83][117] Clark was charged with illegal possession of a firearm while using or addicted to a controlled substance and with possession of a high-capacity magazine.[118][119][120]

Reception

Gab has been described as "Twitter for racists" by Salon,[121] a "hate-filled echo chamber of racism and conspiracy theories" by The Guardian,[122] an "online cesspool of anti-Semitism" by Politico,[13] a "safe haven for banned Twitter trolls, Gamergaters, Pizzagaters and high-profile white nationalists" by Mic,[10] and "the far-right’s favorite social network" by The Verge.[123] A 2016 editorial in Wired criticized Gab for not explicitly prohibiting hate speech.[93] The Southern Poverty Law Center 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".[124]

Harrison Kaminsky, an editor of Digital Trends, questioned the site's longevity in a September 2016 editorial, 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."[125] Amanda Hess, an editor of The New York Times, opined in a November 2016 editorial 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."[5]

Jon Del Arroz, an editor of The Federalist, called the site "a true free-speech atmosphere." in a June 2017 editorial, writing that "Overall, Gab provides a wonderful social network experience with more than 170,000 current users who have written more than eight million posts so far."[40]

Michael Edison Hayden, an open source intelligence analyst and investigative reporter on extremism and disinformation, opined in a Gizmodo interview in October 2018 that "Andrew Torba, the CEO of Gab, will get angry when people for 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.[126]

Nicholas Thompson, an editor of Wired, questioned the sincerity of the site's self-promotion as a defender for "free speech" in an October 2018 editorial, 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?"[127]

Kelly Weill, an editor of The Daily Beast, wrote in a 2019 editorial that "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."[68]

Revenue

Gab does not use advertising.[32] The site began offering a premium subscription service for Gab named "GabPro" in mid-March 2017.[32] 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[26]), 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.[6][32]

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. Gab announced in April 2019 that StartEngine had removed them from their platform and that they intended to sue StartEngine over unreturned service fees.[26][128]

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;[26] the company partnered with the "obscure"[26] Second Amendment Processing for credit card payment processing in January 2019,[64] 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.[65]

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".[26] Heidi Beirich noted an unusual lack of communication records with the SEC regulators in Gab's financial filings, unlike those of similar companies.[68] 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.[65]

Design

The "Gabby" logo, used from 2016 to September 2018.

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 vertically-scrolling timeline with an option to upvote each post. The site also aggregates popular posts and trending topic hashtags.[34][35][93]

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.[10] Users also have the option to "mute" other users and terms.[7] The default profile picture for new users to the site features NPC Wojak, a far-right meme.[84] The site offers its users an option to delete their entire posting history in a single click.[20]

When writing a gab, users can post up to 3,000 characters of plain text, with the first 300 appearing in the timeline and an option to read the rest.[129]

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.[130][131][132][133] 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."[10] As of January 2019, Gab allows users to upvote posts they agree with.[134]

A frog named "Gabby" was Gab's logo in 2016.[5] Torba stated that the frog logo was inspired by Bible verses (Exodus 8:1–12 and Psalms 78:45) and various other traditional symbolic meanings.[121] Sanduja said that the frog was meant to symbolize the "revenge against those who went against mainstream conservative voices on the internet."[94] The logo has been compared to Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character appropriated by the alt-right.[5][121][127] As of September 2018, the frog logo is no longer used.[135]

See also

References

Informational notes

  1. ^ Andrew Torba on August 11, 2018: "Free speech means you can offend, criticize, and make memes about any race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation"[13]

Citations

  1. ^ "GAB AI INC". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "Company Overview of Gab AI Inc". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  3. ^ "gab.com Traffic Statistics". Alexa Internet. July 28, 2018. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  4. ^ Büyükkaya, Ekrem (May 31, 2018). "Ekrem Büyükkaya on Gab: "I want to offer some transparency and clarity..."". Gab. Archived from the original on November 17, 2018. Retrieved November 17, 2018. We are using a PHP framework called Laravel for the major part of Gab services...
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External links