|Gab.com - a white supremacist favored site.|
The Internet has been a wonderful thing, bring connections and access to information to millions. From researching one's genealogy, medical issues, current news events to online encyclopedias, the Internet has made access for millions easier and less costly. Platforms like Facebook and Linkedin provide individuals and businesses with networking opportunities and easy ability to stay connected with far flung families, friends and others. On the sinister side, the Internet has allowed sites that broadcast extremism and/or provide gathering places for extremists who are increasingly unwelcome on mainstream sites that prohibit extremist discussions and/or the dissemination of hate. As it turns out, the Pittsburgh shooter frequented a site named "Gab" that has pandered to white supremacists and others that I view as so-called "deplorables." A piece in the Washington Post looks at the site that has called out for supportive tweets from Der Trumpenführer. Here are article highlights:
There was a blue check mark next to Robert Bowers’s name, meaning that the social media account was verified. His bio said that “jews are the children of satan,” his banner image a clear reference to a white supremacist meme. His last message, posted Saturday morning, read, “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
The account is believed to belong to the same Robert D. Bowers who is suspected of opening fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue during prayers, killing 11 people and wounding six others.
The profile, which has since been removed, lived on Gab, a social media platform that has become a haven for white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other adherents to extreme ideologies that have found themselves increasingly unwelcome on Twitter and Facebook.
[T]he platform’s history is tied to the white supremacists and other far-right figures who joined in its first months, and who have contributed to Gab’s growth.
In the wake of the Pittsburgh attack, Gab and [Gab founder Andrew] Torba have girded themselves for war. On his Gab account, Torba criticized mainstream media stories about his site and promised users that it would survive the increased attention. After Gab was banned from PayPal and received notice from Joyent, its hosting provider, that it would pull their service, Torba wrote early Sunday that “GAB IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE I don’t care what we have to do, I don’t care what it takes.
Gab, through Torba, has always pitched itself as an alternative to Silicon Valley social media sites, attracting a user base of people who believe companies such as Twitter and Facebook are deliberately censoring their views. In 2016, when Twitter strengthened its policy against “hateful conduct” and banned a number of far-right and white supremacist accounts, Torba said Gab gained 60,000 users in eight days.
But Gab is more than a platform. It’s also positioned itself as a key figure in the right-wing response to online crackdowns of extremist views, and has benefited directly from the white supremacists who flocked to Gab on the promise that their views would not be censored, according to an expert who has followed the site’s growth.
Torba has become a charismatic leader of the “alt-tech” movement which, among other things, dedicates itself to protecting and building tech to house “free speech” — including extremist ideologies that are increasingly unwelcome on mainstream sites.
In the wake of the deadly Charlottesville protests in 2017, major companies such as Apple, PayPal and Squarespace began removing white nationalists from their platforms, leaving them with fewer options for making money and hosting their views online.
Gab was there to pick up the slack. “Over the past year, Gab has been able to grow and add new features, premium features, streaming features,” Donovan said, “because of the fusion of the white supremacist need for platforms” and the website’s promise of a free-speech haven.
In the Pittsburgh attack’s aftermath, Christopher Cantwell — one of Gab’s most prominent anti-Semites who achieved notoriety during last year’s Charlottesville rally — began trafficking in anti-Jewish statements and conspiracy theories that the gunman was a plant from American spies to foment anger against conservatives before the midterm elections.
Cantwell, known as the “Crying Nazi,” made a name for himself during the Charlottesville rally when he pepper-sprayed counterprotesters and was featured in a viral Vice documentary. On Gab, he frequently bashes Jews and African Americans and encourages followers to listen to his podcast, “Radical Agenda.” . . . . He also attacks the news media, though he seems to have an affinity for Fox News.
Although Gab’s relationship to the white supremacists who congregate there can be contentious at times, Torba is extremely good at turning criticism of the platform — and the extreme views it houses — into calls to action and attention. Months ago, Torba started declining all mainstream media requests for interviews, a fact that Gab promotes on their social media accounts.
In response to questions about Bowers’s account, The Post was sent a statement on Medium that said Gab had removed it and was cooperating with law enforcement. The site didn’t immediately respond to a request for an interview Sunday.
Both the MAGA bomber and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter frequented these types of sites and were a threat in plain sight had authorities monitored or the sites warned authorities of dangerous rants and rhetoric.