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Gab, the social network used by the Pittsburgh shooting suspect, is down

Sierra Rees, of Seattle, wears a Pepe the frog shirt hand-painted by her friend Jaeda Ferrel at a rally organized by the right-wing group Patriot Prayer in Vancouver, Washington, U.S. September 10, 2017.
Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage
A popular memes on the platform.
By Natasha Frost
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Gab isn’t going anywhere. That’s according to an apoplectic statement put out by the “free speech” social network in the wake of the site being “no-platformed by essential internet infrastructure providers at every level,” leading to its being shut down.

In placeholder text on the site, CEO Andrew Torba described the network as “the most censored, smeared, and no-platformed startup in history, which means we are a threat to the media and to the Silicon Valley Oligarchy.”

Well, maybe. A bit of background: Gab has nearly 800,000 users—enough for there to be significant noise about its being taken down, but a minnow compared to heavyweights such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As my colleague Nikhil Sonnad wrote back in June, “Gab is similar to Twitter in how it works, but like [the 4chan board] /pol/, Gab is mostly for trolls and alt-righters who think their hate speech will be “censored” on other platforms.” Memes are often anti-semitic or some riff on alt-right icons such as Pepe the Frog.

With virtually no limitations on what users can post, the network has been the subject of renewed scrutiny after it emerged that Robert Bowers, the suspected gunman in the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh, had used it to air his racist, anti-Semitic views. Bowers put up multiple posts calling for Jews to be expelled or to leave the US.

Gab’s lenient stance on hateful messaging came under fire in August, when Microsoft warned its founders to remove two specific anti-Semitic posts, under penalty of no longer being hosted on its servers. (The two posts in question were by Patrick Little, a far-right Senate candidate forcibly removed from this year’s California Republican convention this spring for his anti-Semitic comments. He has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and told Newsweek that he sees Adolf Hitler as “the second coming of Christ.”) Though Torba ultimately asked Little to remove his posts, Gab promised at the time that it was “actively looking” into other hosting providers. “We believe this was the best decision for the longevity of the platform and the war against Silicon Valley,” Torba wrote on the site.

For now, Gab is very much down. But its owners say this is only temporary, and that they are exercising “every possible avenue to keep Gab online and defend free speech and individual liberty for all people.” How easy it’ll be for them to return online remains to be seen.

On Twitter, Gab said that it had been “banned” variously by payment processing firms PayPal and Stripe, hosting service Joyent and domain register GoDaddy. In the past, sites such as the Daily Stormer, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi website, have been forced onto the Dark Web after being abandoned by their hosting services. Eventually, the Daily Stormer got back online with the assistance of BitMitigate, a small company whose 20-year-old founder said he wanted to help defend free speech. Gab will likely be hoping for a similar champion.

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