Gab, the 'alt-right Twitter' used by antisemitic Pittsburgh shooter

"We believe in free and open expression for everyone on the internet and that's something we want to protect and we want to promote," says founder Andrew Torba.

Pepe the Frog cartoon (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ 9VJ)
Pepe the Frog cartoon
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ 9VJ)
Robert Bowers, who allegedly massacred 11 and wounded four at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, frequently posted antisemitic rants on the website Gab.com, the BBC reported.
Gab, a social network site also known to many as “alt-right Twitter,” was founded in 2016 by Andrew Torba to promote free speech across a “entirely left-leaning big social monopoly,” according to the founder.
Photo Credit: Courtesy, A post made from the alleged Pittsburgh shooter's, Robert Bowers, Gab account.
The site released a statement condemning the Sabbath morning shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation.
“Gab unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence. This has always been our policy,” the social media platform commented.
It also suspended Bowers’s account under the username “onedingo,” backed up all the data and contacted the authorities.
Before the shooting, Bowers posted “Jews are the children of Satan,” and that he could not “sit by and watch my people [white nationalists] get slaughtered.” His final comment was “Screw your optics. I’m going in.”
In earlier posts, Bowers was critical of US President Donald Trump, saying “Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist. There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy, A post made from the alleged Pittsburgh shooter's, Robert Bowers, Gab account.
Torba worked in Silicon Valley before starting Gab. He established the social media platform after hearing reports “that Facebook employees [had been] suppressing conservative articles,” excluding alt-right stories as well as the fact that Twitter banned several big-name right-wing activists, seeing this as a movement towards social media limiting freedom of expression.
Torba told BBC News that in his view there “is extensive censorship and suppression of specifically conservative ideas, news sources and individuals around the world. Social networks are hiding behind the guise of very subjective terms and guidelines, so they call things hate speech and harassment.
“We believe in free and open expression for everyone on the Internet, and that’s something we want to protect and we want to promote,” he continued.
The site’s home page calls Gab “A social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online. All are welcome.”
While Gab.com encourages free speech, the platform prohibits the incitement of violence, terrorism, publicizing someones private information and illegal pornography. The bottom of the rules page reads: “Try to be nice and kind to one another. We’re all human.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy, A post made from the alleged Pittsburgh shooter's, Robert Bowers, Gab account.
Photo Credit: Courtesy, A post made from the alleged Pittsburgh shooter's, Robert Bowers, Gab account.
Topped by trends like #MAGA, #Trump and #Pizzagate (a conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party is working out of a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC), critics argue that the platform is a place for people banned from mainstream social media platforms as well as a safe haven for hate speech.
Although the site’s logo is Pepe the Frog, which is closely identified to be linked to the alt-right party, it was not developed for the use of any specific group or political affiliation, according to Torba.
The platform has over 465,000 users according to its April 2018 community update, with many more still on the waiting list. Citing Gab’s hate speech, pornography and violence, companies including Apple, Paypal, Microsoft and Google have blocked the platform or prevented their users from downloading the app from their online stores.
While rejected by the Apple Store and the Google Play Store, Gab has been hosted on Microsoft. But the media giant threatened to boot the website in August if it didn’t remove two antisemitic postings.
The user in question, neo-Nazi and failed Senate candidate Patrick Little, voluntarily removed  posts, which reportedly included “a plan to raise [J]ews as livestock... for ritual death by torture,” and threats to take “a sledge hammer to a holohoax memorial.”
After the posts were removed, Torba mocked Microsoft, saying it was responsible for the posts “being spread all across the entire internet. DUMB.” He posted screenshots purporting that Microsoft’s decision had boosted membership.
Microsoft told Bloomberg in August that Gab’s content “incites violence, is not protected by the First Amendment, and violates Microsoft Azure’s acceptable use policy.”

Amy Spiro contributed to this report.



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