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Gab is an American alt-tech social networking service known for its far-right userbase. Widely described as a haven for extremists including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, the alt-right, and QAnon conspiracy theorists, it has attracted users and groups who have been banned from other social media and users seeking alternatives to mainstream social media platforms. Gab says it promotes free speech, individual liberty, and "the free flow of information online", though these statements have been criticized as being a shield for its alt-right and extremist ecosystem. Antisemitism is prominent in the site's content, and the company itself has engaged in antisemitic commentary on Twitter. Researchers note that Gab has been "repeatedly linked to radicalization leading to real-world violent events". The site received extensive public scrutiny following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018, after it was found that the sole suspect of the attack, Robert Gregory Bowers, had posted a message on Gab indicating an immediate intent to cause harm before the shooting. Bowers had a history of making extreme, antisemitic postings on the site. After the shooting, Gab briefly went offline when it was dropped by its hosting provider and denied service by several payment processors. In 2021, Gab was among the platforms used to plan the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6. Gab launched publicly in May 2017. A microblogging platform, Gab has been described as similar to Twitter. Gab also maintains an email service, a text messaging service, and a web browser and browser extension to allow commenting on third-party websites. In July 2019, Gab switched its software infrastructure to a Mastodon fork, a free and open-source social network platform. Mastodon released a statement in protest, denouncing Gab as trying to "monetize and platform racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech."

History




2016–2018


Gab was founded by chief executive officer (CEO) Andrew Torba and chief technology officer (CTO) Ekrem Büyükkaya, who had previously worked together at advertising technology company Automate Ads (formerly Kuhcoon). Torba started working on the site in May 2016 and on August 15, 2016, Gab launched in private beta, billing itself as a "free speech" alternative to social networking sites Twitter and Facebook. Torba has cited "the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly" and an alleged bias against conservative articles by Facebook reported in a ''Gizmodo'' article as his reasons for creating Gab. Gab AI, Inc. was incorporated on September 6, 2016. Utsav Sanduja later joined Gab as chief operating officer (COO). 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 after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In mid-November 2016, Gab's wait list had around 130,000 users and in December 2016, their wait list had 200,000 users. Also in December 2016, Torba claimed that Gab had around 130,000 registered users. On May 8, 2017, Gab exited private beta testing. In early 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." Little said in the posts that Jews should be raised as "livestock" and that he intended to destroy a "holohoax memorial." In response to Azure's threat, Little posted on Gab that "I'll delete the posts, but this is a violation of our rights as Americans". Gab's Twitter account also 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 claimed 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 on Flippa, an online business marketplace; it had previously been using the domain Gab.ai. During the 2018 Brazilian presidential election from September to October 2018, 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 2018 "Student Action Summit" in Palm Beach, Florida. Days before the event, Turning Point USA removed Gab from the list of sponsors without explanation. Gab later posted a press release protesting the unexplained removal.

2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Robert Gregory Bowers, the suspected shooter in the attack against a Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27, 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, gathered all user data for the account, and contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On October 27, 2018, the day of 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." Following the shooting, Gab received substantial media attention, having been relatively unknown by the general public prior to the attack. Ekrem Büyükkaya, Gab's co-founder and CTO, announced his resignation on October 28, citing "attacks from the American press". 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". Also after the site was taken down, Torba accused the media of demonizing Gab while ignoring similar problems on mainstream social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. 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 also baselessly claimed that neo-Nazis on Gab are "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." Monster also said of Gab that "I do believe the guys that are on the site are vigilant". After Gab returned online, the site was immediately flooded with antisemitic posts and comments, including one comment in response to a post from Torba welcoming back users of Gab and asking users to be nice to each other that said "Fuck that, name the Jews who are trying to shut us down." The comment was later deleted. Torba then claimed in response to these posts and comments that "a lot of people are creating brand new accounts and breaking our guidelines on purpose tonight." Torba also called on users of Gab to help police the site for posts that break Gab's user guidelines, including threats of violence.

2019

Gab 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 had been misrepresenting its services and bloating its user count in its filings and promotional materials. The GabTV service advertised on its StartEngine crowdfunding page was only active very briefly in early 2018, and also , the dedicated page for the service was 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 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. , Gab paid Sibyl Systems Ltd. $1,175 a month for webhosting. The SPLC reported on February 14, 2019 that a software engineer for Sibyl Systems had 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 that 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 Apple 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 "seekngto monetize and platform racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech" and "attemptngto 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 "offerusers no incentive to choose their platform" and "puts itself at a disadvantage compared to any Mastodon instance." According to SimilarWeb, Gab's website traffic grew almost 200% between January and July 2019, and unique visitors to the site increased 180%. In August 2019, ''Vice News'' reported that traffic to Gab's website and the rate of new users joining Gab had both significantly increased during the first half of 2019. Also in August 2019, Torba claimed that Gab had over 1 million registered users. In late 2019, Gab launched Gab Trends, a news aggregate website described by KNTV as being similar to the Drudge Report.


2020


In early 2020, Gab launched Gab Chat in beta, an encrypted text messaging service described by ''Mashable'' as an alternative to Discord. In late June 2020, hackers leaked a May 26 law enforcement bulletin that was distributed by Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets), a whistleblower site that publishes leaked documents. The bulletin was created by the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange Fusion Center, who speculated that Gab Chat's encryption and privacy features for private chatting, such as the service automatically deleting text messages after 30 days of them being sent, could entice white supremacists to use the platform instead of Discord, a platform on which white supremacist groups have been frequently infiltrated by anti-fascists. When reached for a comment by ''Mashable'', Torba responded to the bulletin in an email saying "Encryption does not render law enforcement totally blind" and that "Encryption doesn't cause a user to simply disappear. It doesn't prevent a service provider from seeing who is using its service or when that person is using the service." Torba also deflected from the concern of white supremacists using Gab Chat and claimed that law enforcement should instead focus on stopping child exploitation on mainstream text messaging services. In April 2020, Gab claimed that it had over 1.1 million registered users and that their website was receiving 3.7 million monthly visitors globally. In July 2020, ''Slate'' reported that after Gab was connected to the 2018 Pittsburgh shooting, "Gab never quite recovered." The service's popularity diminished following the attack and the site's subsequent downtime. On October 1, 2020, Reuters broke a story that people associated with the Russian Internet Research Agency, a group known for their interference in the 2016 presidential election, had been operating social media accounts on both mainstream and alt-tech platforms. One of the accounts, which was identified in an FBI probe as a "key asset in an alleged Russian disinformation campaign", had been spreading "familiar—and completely false" information including claims that mail-in voting is prone to fraud, that then-U.S. President Donald Trump was infected with COVID-19 by leftist activists, and that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is a "sexual predator". ''Axios'' noted that the account had not found much of an audience on mainstream platforms but had caught on among the alt-tech platforms; the Twitter account had fewer than 200 followers, but the Gab account had 3,000 and the Parler account had 14,000. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all took actions to suspend the accounts from their platforms. ''The Washington Post'' reported on October 7 that Gab had declined to terminate the account after being informed of its connections to the disinformation organization. Torba said to Reuters, "It looks like a blog sharing news stories and opinions. It's irrelevant to us who runs it or why." Speaking to ''The Washington Post'', Torba said, "They can speak freely on Gab just like anyone else." During the 2020 U.S. presidential election in November, Gab claimed that they experienced record user growth. In December 2020, ''Engineering & Technology'' reported that Gab and other similar platforms could face "huge fines" for spreading misinformation under a new online safety bill in the United Kingdom that was planning on being introduced in 2021.


2021





Storming of the United States Capitol


Gab was among the platforms used to plan the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Posts about which streets to take in order to run from police, which tools to use to pry open doors, and carrying guns into the halls of Congress, were exchanged on the platform in advance of the storming. During the storming, users of Gab recorded entering offices of members of Congress, including the office of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Following the storming and then-President Trump's subsequent permanent suspension from Twitter, Torba claimed that Gab had experienced a 40% increase in traffic and that Gab was also gaining 10,000 new users per hour as of January 9. After Parler, another alt-tech social network, was pulled offline by its host Amazon Web Services on January 11, former users of that site started migrating to Gab. On January 14, Gab claimed on Twitter that the platform had gained 2.3million new users in the past week. ''ABC News'' reported on January 12, 2021 that experts said that conservative-leaning social networks, including Gab, helped create echo chambers for extremist and violent views, which contributed to the Capitol storming. After the Capitol storming, on January 13, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in an open letter to the United States Department of Justice called for a federal investigation into Gab and Torba to determine if they "intentionally aided" the individuals who were involved in the storming. ADL cited posts from Torba telling users of Gab "heading to DC" to record "video footage in landscape mode" in anticipation of "communist violence" and also posted on Gab that it "would be a real shame if the people outside stormed the Senate." In response, Torba denied he and his platform were responsible for the storming, claiming that Gab did a "phenomenal job" of mitigating violent content. He also claimed that Gab had been removing offending posts and reporting them to federal law enforcement leading up to the storming, claiming that "Public safety is our top priority", but declined to say which law enforcement agency they were working with, citing an "ongoing investigation". Torba also deflected attention away from Gab and towards Facebook, claiming that the storming was "organized using Facebook's technology, not Gab's." ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in response, "It's ironic that, when called out for enabling extremist rhetoric, Gab's response is to craft" a letter "containing thinly veiled antisemitism", adding that "As our open letter makes clear, Gab is not moderating this extremist content, and their CEO seems to be encouraging users to upload it."


Subsequent events


On January 19, Rachel E. Greenspan from ''Business Insider'' observed that Gab had tweeted a direct quote from a post by Q, the anonymous individual or group whose messages form the basis of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. The tweet was later deleted. She also noted that Gab's Twitter account had made multiple tweets referencing Jesus, including one tweet made on January 18 featuring an image of Jesus walking with Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character used by the alt-right. On February 9, Matt Field from the ''Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists'' reported that RT, a media outlet owned by the Russian government that Field claims helped Trump win the 2016 presidential election, had created an account on Gab right before the start of Trump's second impeachment trial. Field noted that RT had posted several articles on their Gab account, including one criticizing The Lincoln Project, an organization run by anti-Trump Republicans.

Hacks and data leaks

On the evening of February 19, Gab's website briefly went offline, originally without explanation. In response, several Twitter users posted images showing Gab accounts run by right-wing media outlets, such as ''The Gateway Pundit'' and ''National File'', asking people to donate funds to a suspicious URL. After the site was restored, Torba responded in a blog post saying that Gab themselves had taken the site offline at around 6:25 pm EST, sixteen minutes after they "became aware of several accounts that were posting bitcoin wallet spam and related content." According to Torba, fewer than 20 accounts were affected, Gab "have no indication that any sensitive account information was breached or accessed by any unauthorized users", and that "Because of our quick action zero bitcoin was sent". Torba did not specify which accounts were affected. Torba also said that Gab had "identified and patched a security vulnerability in our codebase" and that "Our engineering team is conducting a full audit of our logs and infrastructure." On February 26, around a week after Gab briefly went offline, the company published a blog post denying a data breach had taken place. In the post, they wrote that they had been contacted by unnamed reporters who asked about a data breach that may have exposed an archive of posts, direct messages, profiles, and hashed passwords on Gab. Torba wrote in the blog post that there was no independent confirmation that a breach had taken place, and that Gab collects "very little from our users in terms of personal information". He also accused the reporters of working with a hacker to hurt the company and its users. On February 28, DDoSecrets revealed "GabLeaks", a collection of more than 70 gigabytes of data from Gab, including more than 40 million posts, passwords, private messages, and other leaked information. The data was given to the group by a hacktivist self-identifying as "JaXpArO and My Little Anonymous Revival Project", who retrieved the data from Gab's back-end databases to expose the platform's largely right-wing userbase. DDoSecrets co-founder Emma Best called GabLeaks "another gold mine of research for people looking at militias, neo-Nazis, the far right, QAnon and everything surrounding January 6." DDoSecrets said that they would not release the data publicly due to the data containing a large amount of private and sensitive information and will instead share the data with select journalists, social scientists, and researchers. Andy Greenberg from ''Wired'' confirmed that the data "does appear to contain Gab users' individual and group profiles—their descriptions and privacy settings—public and private posts, and passwords". In response, Torba acknowledged the data breach, said that his Gab account had been "compromised", and that "the entire company is all hands investigating what happened and working to trace and patch the problem". He also used a transphobic slur to insult the hackers "attacking" Gab and referred to them as "demon hackers." On March 1, Torba revealed in a post on Gab's blog that the company had received a ransom demand of $500,000 in Bitcoin for the data, and wrote in response that they would not be paying it. Dan Goodin reported in ''Ars Technica'' on March 2 that Gab's CTO, Fosco Marotto, had in February introduced a SQL vulnerability that may have led to the data breach, and that Gab had subsequently scrubbed the commit from Git history. The company had previously open sourced Gab's source code in a Git repository which included all historical commits; on March 1, they took the repository offline and replaced it with a zipfile that did not include commit history. On March 8, JaXpArO again compromised verified accounts on Gab, posting a message to their feeds addressed to Torba, which said the service had been "fully compromised" the previous week and accused him of lying to Gab's users. Gab briefly went offline again the same day, and the company wrote on Twitter that they had taken their site offline "to investigate a security breach".

Dissenter

On February 24, 2019, Gab launched a browser extension called Dissenter, an aggregation and discussion service which allows Gab users to make comments about any webpage including news articles, YouTube videos, and individual social media posts. Comments made using the Dissenter extension are outside of the webpage owner's control, and the extension can be used to comment on websites with no comment feature or where comment sections have been closed. Gab also has a web browser called Dissenter. 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 the extension to comment about the movie and about 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 violating the hate speech portion of Mozilla's acceptable use policy. 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 web browser in order to bundle Dissenter. Brave CEO Brendan Eich criticized the decision to fork Brave as unnecessary and "parasitic". 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 of the ''Financial Times'' called Dissenter a "shadow layer" of the Internet.

Users and content



Users

The site has attracted far-right or alt-right users who have been banned or suspended from other services. Since its foundation in 2016, high-profile participants have included former ''Breitbart News'' writer and polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos; former British National Party leader Nick Griffin; Australian neo-Nazis Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson; Republican Party representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boeber; Dutch politician and Leader of the Party for Freedom Geert Wilders; 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, have also been prominent participants. Following the Christchurch mosque shootings and a reduced 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. On January 24, 2021, the Republican Party of Texas made a post on its Twitter account asking their followers to join Gab. In March 2021, the Republican Party of Texas voted to delete their Gab account. Torba stated in 2016 that Gab is "not designed specifically for conservatives" and has stated that "we welcome everyone and always will" and "We want everyone to feel safe on Gab, but we're not going to police what is hate speech and what isn't." In November 2016, Torba told ''The Washington Post'' that "I didn’t set out to build a 'conservative social network' by any means ... but I felt that it was time for a conservative leader to step up and to provide a forum where anybody can come and speak freely without fear of censorship." 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. In an interview with ''Vice News'' in August 2019, Torba acknowledged that Gab was right-leaning, saying that "any online community that is explicitly pro-free speech will inevitably become right-leaning" and claimed that "this is because in the free market of ideas right-leaning ideas win." 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." 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. Researchers publishing in ''e-Extreme'' wrote in October 2020 that many of Gab's users are Trump supporters who feel they are being censored on mainstream platforms, and "this sense of persecution is the reason why many join the platform, while an overarching shared sense of victimhood – whether as members of a 'white race', free-speech absolutists, or Trump supporters – unites the broader community." 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 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. In early February 2021, multiple media outlets falsely reported that former-President Trump had joined Gab under the handle @realdonaldtrump. ''The Independent'' speculated "that confusion arose from the presence of a blue check mark indicating the account was verified" and ''Vice News'' speculated that the bio of the account, which read "45th President of the United States of America. Uncensored posts from the @realDonaldTrump Feed." had also caused confusion. The Gab post that was mistaken to be from Trump was actually from Torba and featured a copy of a genuine letter sent by Trump's lawyers to Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who had called on Trump to testify at his second impeachment hearing. Thousands of users on Gab, including QAnon influencers, were also led to believe after the post was made that Trump had joined the platform under the handle. Torba responded to the false reports in a blog post, saying that "@realdonaldtrump is and always has been a mirror archive of POTUS' tweets and statements that we've run for years. We've always been transparent about this and would obviously let people know if the President starts using it." He also criticized the media outlets that falsely reported that Trump had joined the platform. Also in response to the false reports, the @realdonaldtrump Gab account made a post that was pinned saying that the account is reserved for Trump and urged users of Gab to send messages to Trump asking him to join the platform. In March 2021, Forbes reported that representatives of former Senior Advisor Jared Kushner in January had asked for equity in Gab in exchange for Kushner's father-in-law Trump joining the platform. Torba declined the offer, saying "No, I’m not entertaining that." , Gab has 4million registered users. According to Micah Lee writing for ''The Intercept'', the "vast majority" of registered Gab accounts are inactive, and the number of active users of the site is closer to 100,000.

Antisemitism

Rita Katz, a researcher and analyst of terrorism and extremism, wrote in ''Politico Magazine'' in October 2018 that Robert Bowers' extreme antisemitic postings were "anything but an anomaly" on the website, and, "hey highlightconcerns about its growing facilitation of white nationalism and other far-right movements." She found that Gab user profiles often contained Nazi symbolism, and Stormfront users had 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 said in 2019: "Gab has always been attractive to fascist and neo-Nazi groups that advocate violence." The same month, 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 VoIP platform Discord and that some of the discussions centered on antisemitism and achieving "ethno-nationalism." ''The Jewish Chronicle'' reported in January 2019 that they had 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." 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.


By Gab


Gab itself has engaged in antisemitic commentary. On August 9, 2018, in response to a post from Jewish political activist Brian Krassenstein calling for the shutdown of the site, Gab's Twitter account responded with a post suggesting that it is unsurprising for a person with a Jewish last name to oppose "free speech", followed by a tweet from the platform calling for "open borders for Israel", a quote from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and posted another tweet the same hour with a citation to a Bible verse (Revelation 3:9) that referred to Jewish nonbelievers of Jesus as members of the "synagogue of Satan". The company's Twitter account also posted a tweet on August 9 alluding to the antisemitic trope of Jewish global control, saying "At some point you have to ask yourself: just who is pushing for the censorship?". On October 31, 2018, ''The Washington Post'' pointed to two messages on Gab's 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. On January 14, 2021, Molly Boigon from ''The Forward'' noted that Torba's response to the ADL, a Jewish non-governmental organization, contained the unusual sign-off "Jesus is King", which Torba had not used in the previous or subsequent Gab press releases. She also noted that Gab's Twitter account had recently posted multiple tweets about Senior Adviser Jared Kushner's supposed influence on then-President Trump, which she described as a nod to the antisemitic trope about global Jewish puppet masters. Gab's Twitter account had also recently posted a tweet questioning the legitimacy of antisemitism falling under hate speech. In February 2021, Gab posted on their Twitter account that going forward they would only respond to press inquiries from "Christian media companes, describing other publications as "pagan propogandists". In March 2021, Ali Breland reported in ''Mother Jones'' on private messages leaked in that month's data breach, which showed Torba welcoming alt-right personality Roosh V and praising another Gab user, the antisemitic writer E. Michael Jones. Oren Segal of the ADL said the messages seemed "to show that Torba has a direct appreciation for individuals that promote antisemitism and hate."


Violence and terrorism


Terrorism researcher and Queen's University in Kingston, 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'' in July 2019: "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 were arrested on terror offences for posting propaganda on Gab calling for their followers to assassinate Prince Harry.


Moderation


Gab claims that its platform does not restrict content unless the content is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Restrictions on content on Gab include illegal activity, credible threats of violence, promotion of terrorism, obscenity, pornography, spamming, selling weapons or drugs, child exploitation, impersonation, and doxing. In January 2021, Jazmin Goodwin from CNN described Gab's moderation as "lax" and that this "approach on content has made way for a slew of QAnon conspiracy theories, misinformation and anti-Semitic commentary on the platform, among lots of vile hatred and racist posts – much of wouldn't be allowed on today's well-known social apps".

Hosting and termination of services by web services providers

In December 2016, Apple Inc. declined Gab's submission of its app to the Apple App Store, citing pornographic content as the reason. At the same time, Twitter 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. Gab launched its Android app for the Google Play Store in May 2017. Later that year, on August 17, Google removed Gab's app from the 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 early October 2018, Gab's Stripe account was suspended due to adult content on Gab. On October 27, 2018, the day of the Pittsburgh synagogue 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. Gab also said on Twitter that they expected their site to be down for weeks. Stripe and Backblaze also terminated their services with Gab after the shooting. 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, and Sibyl Systems Ltd. began to provide webhosting. Epik is an American company that provides domain registration and other web services, and is known for providing services to websites that host far-right, neo-Nazi, and other extremist content. Sibyl Systems is a company that was described in a February 2019 profile by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a "shadowy operation with little transparency on its website, a murky history of ownership and no fixed base of operations". It was founded on October 22, 2018, days before the shooting that resulted in Gab's termination from their previous webhost, and according to the SPLC was possibly based in Norway or in England. Sibyl Systems was later acquired by Epik in the second quarter of 2019. In August 2019, Amazon Web Services ceased serving Gab's fundraising site due to Gab violating Amazon's policy on hateful content. In response, Torba said he welcomed Amazon's decision, claiming that media coverage of the decision had only brought more attention to Gab and resulted in investment offers. , Gab was still using Epik as a domain registrar. Instead of hosting its service in the cloud, the ''Wall Street Journal'' reported that Gab had been renting hardware in an undisclosed data center. Gab was also using services from Cloudflare.

Reception

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'' and "the Make America Great Again of social sites" by ''The New York Times''. ''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." In August 2019, director of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right Matthew Feldman said of Gab's stance on free speech that "'free speech' in Gab's context has too often meant 'free to engage in hate speech and incitement' with minimal curation by site moderators or, it seems, owners." Milo Yiannopoulos, an active user of Gab who joined after being deplatformed from Facebook and Twitter, complained in September 2019 about the low number of users on Gab, Parler, and Telegram. He wrote on Telegram that, after losing his large fanbases on Facebook and Twitter, he was having difficulty sustaining his career due to the relatively small number of users on the alternative social networks. He described Gab as "relentlessly, exhaustingly hostile and jam packed full of teen racists who totally dictate the tone and discussion." In February 2020, Tanya Basu of ''MIT Technology Review'' characterized Gab as being frequented by "fringe far-right hate groups". In January 2021, Travis M. Andrews of ''The Washington Post'' said that Gab "has welcomed extremist right-wing figures and believers of QAnon, the loose collection of conspiracy theories that touch on everything from politics to COVID-19." In March 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott condemned Gab, stating "anti-Semitic platforms like Gab have no place in Texas." Also in March, Nathalie Van Raemdonck, a doctoral researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels who researches platform architecture, said of Gab's launch that "It’s not necessarily that Gab rewarded the best content, or punished the worst, but does it reward what the group thinks" and that "Because the people on the platform were already terrible, they needed engaging conversations to stimulate each other, so it became a circlejerk to the bottom." Van Raemdonck also noted of Gab that "The fact that they portrayed themselves as a free-speech platform attracts a certain crowd". Gab is one of a number of alternative social network platforms, including Minds, MeWe, Parler, and BitChute, that are popular with people banned from mainstream networks such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and Instagram. Deen Freelon and colleagues writing in ''Science'' characterized Gab as among alt-tech sites that are "dedicated to right-wing communities", and listed the site along with 4chan, 8chan, BitChute, and Parler. They noted there are also more ideologically neutral alt-tech platforms, such as Discord and Telegram. Joe Mulhall of the UK anti-racism group Hope Not Hate has categorized Gab among the "bespoke platforms" for the far-right, which he defines as platforms which were created by people who themselves have "far-right leanings". He distinguishes these from "co-opted platforms" such as DLive and Telegram, which were adopted by the far-right due to minimal moderation but not specifically created for their use.


Company


Gab was founded by CEO Andrew Torba and CTO Ekrem Büyükkaya and the company was incorporated on September 6, 2016. Torba, who described himself in 2016 as a lifelong "conservative Republican Christian", was previously removed from the Y Combinator alumni network in 2016 because of harassment concerns, starting when he used "build the wall" on Twitter alongside a screenshot of a post by a Latino startup founder that read: "being a black, Muslim or woman in the USA is going to be very scary". He also made a threatening post on Facebook that said "All of you: fuck off. Take your morally superior, elitist, virtue signaling bullshit and shove it." and also said that "I call it like I see it, and I helped meme a President into office, cucks." Until 2016, Torba was registered as a Democrat, although he voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans. Utsav Sanduja later joined Gab as COO. Sanduja left the company in June 2018. In an interview with ''ABC News'', Sanduja said that his wife, who works at a synagogue, had been doxed and received death threats while he worked at Gab: "apparently some of her personal information was found out and my family and I went through quite a lot of abuse, a systemic targeting from really vicious people, and honestly it just took a toll on us mentally." On October 28, Büyükkaya announced his resignation from Gab the day after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, citing "attacks from the American press". In November 2020, Fosco Marotto joined Gab as chief technology officer (CTO). 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.

Revenue

Gab earns revenue through premium subscriptions, donations, and affiliate partnerships. Gab has been refused service by several payment processors including PayPal and Stripe, causing the site to at various times rely on payments by postal mail, cryptocurrency, and "obscure" payment processors to receive payment for its subscription service. From 2017 to 2018, Gab raised $2 million from the sale of speculative securities through the crowdfunding platform StartEngine. Gab sought approval from the SEC for a Regulation A exempt offering of $10 million in 2017, but it remained pending until March 2019 when Gab withdrew the request.


2016–2018


Gab originally did not use advertising, describing itself as an "ad-free social network". The site began offering a subscription service for Gab named "GabPro" in mid March 2017. In November 2017, Gab launched a new tier of subscriptions called "GabPro Premium", which was targeted at content creators who wished to charge a subscription fee for their content and collect tips. Gab lost more than $350,000 in the period from its foundation through June 30, 2018. The company relied on the online crowdfunding broker StartEngine starting in 2017. In July 2017, Gab started an investment project which met its goal of $1.07 million on August 19, 2017. In February 2018, Gab announced that it had raised $4.8 million and was planning a $10 million initial coin offering (ICO). From 2017 to 2018, Gab raised $2 million through StartEngine. 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. Following its removal, the site relied on mail and cryptocurrency for subscription payment processing.


2019–present


Gab partnered with the "obscure" Second Amendment Processing for credit card payment processing in January 2019, but removed credit card payment options in March of the same year. This removal came after an SPLC investigation published in early March 2019 found that Thomas Michael Troyer, founder of Second Amendment Processing, had been convicted of financial crimes in 2007. The SPLC reported in January 2019 that the company's Regulation A exempt offering of $10 million had 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 "he companyhas decided to seek other capital raising alternatives." Torba did not respond to SPLC inquiries regarding the withdrawal. As of August 2019, purchasing the GabPro subscription gave users the ability to upload videos of larger file sizes, the option to be verified on Gab, and a free email address from Gab's email service. Gab had previously launched affiliate marketing with Virtual Private Network Service Providers and Gab had also previously launched its own merchandise. In September 2019, Gab began showing "promoted posts" from affiliate partners. Users who purchase the GabPro subscription do not see the promoted posts. On June 19, 2020, Torba claimed that him, his wife, and Gab had been "blacklisted" by Visa for "promoting hate speech." In response to user growth on Gab during the 2020 presidential election in November, Torba claimed in an email to Gab users on November 11 that "Gab isn't growing because of 'celebrity' endorsements, sponsorships, or big paid advertising budgets, but rather from the most powerful form of advertising on the planet: word of mouth".

Design

In 2016, Gab's color theme was a minimalist combination of black text on white panels with pink hashtags and usernames. Pro users had a contrasted top bar in dark blue. The interface displayed messages in a Twitter-like vertical scroll timeline with an option to upvote or downvote each post. The site also aggregated popular posts and trending topic hashtags. As of 2017, users could sort comments and posts in a subject by time or score. Default biographies for new users displayed a randomly chosen quotation about the importance of free speech. Users also had the option to "mute" other users and terms. , Gab's user interface was similar to that of Twitter, having a dashboard in the middle of the page with trending content on the left and menus on the right. As of 2021, posts on Gab have a character limit of 300. In early 2017, the option to downvote posts was temporarily removed from Gab, with the company's then-COO Sanduja explaining that they were removed due to them being used to troll and to harass women, and also stated 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." 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. As of 2019, Gab uses a scoring system, which allows users with more than 250 points to downvote posts, but users must "spend points" in order to do so. In 2018, the default profile picture for new users to the site featured NPC Wojak, a meme popular on far-right websites. A frog named "Gabby" was Gab's logo from 2016 to 2018. The logo has been compared to Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character used 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.

See also

* List of social networking websites * 8chan * DLive * Frank (social network) *Minds *Parler * Voat

References

Informational notes Citations

External links

*
Official source code repository
{{DEFAULTSORT:Gab Category:Alt-right websites Category:Alt-tech Category:American social networking websites Category:Internet properties established in 2016 Category:Mastodon (software) instances Category:Microblogging services Category:Multilingual websites Category:Neo-Nazism in the United States Category:Online companies of the United States Category:Proprietary cross-platform software Category:Real-time web Category:Websites with far-right material Category:Delisted applications Category:Conspiracist media