The social media service Gab, used by Robert Gregory Bowers to spew anti-Semitic hate speech, is now dealing with the repercussions of Saturday’s Pittsburgh-area massacre in which Bowers has been charged with killing 11 people and wounding six in a shooting rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Within hours after it was disclosed that Bowers used the site, PayPal said it would no longer support Gab, Deadline reported.
“The company is diligent in performing reviews and taking account actions. When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action,” it told The Verge in a statement.
On Sunday, Gab was dropped by its web host, Joyent. Payment processor Stripe also severed ties with Gab.
However, later on Sunday Gab announced on Twitter, which had never cut off its account, that it was still going to be online.
“New hosting provider secured. Working around the clock to see to it that Gab.com stays online. You can’t stop the power of The People in their fight for freedom and liberty against tyranny. FREE SPEECH WILL ALWAYS WIN,” Gab tweeted.
New hosting provider secured. Working around the clock to see to it that https://t.co/J3Rfto6fi3 stays online. You can’t stop the power of The People in their fight for freedom and liberty against tyranny.
FREE SPEECH WILL ALWAYS WIN. pic.twitter.com/IFZbwqf5YZ
— Gab.com? (@getongab) October 28, 2018
Gab’s founder and CEO Andrew Torba noted that Gab was punished for an offense that other social media platforms get away with.
“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,” he wrote to The New York Times. “This double standard does not exist on Gab.”
Gab also responded to its critics with a statement that it released on Medium.
“Gab unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence,” the statement said.
“We refuse to be defined by the media’s narratives about Gab and our community,” the statement continued. “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. From live streamed murders on Facebook, to threats of violence by bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc Jr. that went unaddressed by Twitter, and more. Criminals and criminal behavior exist on every social media platform.”
The company also said that it worked with police to inform them about what Bowers had been posting.
Gab said censorship is wrong, period.
“The answer to ‘bad speech’ is more speech. Censorship and pushing people into the shadows will never be the answer. Words do not kill people. Guns do not kill people. Social media platforms do not kill people. People kill people. There is one person responsible for the horrific events that occurred today and that is allegedly Mr. Bowers,” it said.
At least one commentator said social media crackdowns of wide open speech may be something whose time has come.
“The challenge faced by any platform that allows everything permitted under U.S. law is that if left unabated, the most objectionable content will inevitably take over,” said Micah Schaffer, a former policy leader at YouTube and Snap, who is now a technology policy consultant. “If an online community is dominated by porn, beheadings, or white supremacists, most people aren’t going to think it’s a good place for their baby photos.”
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