Far Right freedom of expression
Gab severely suffered from being blacklisted from all the internet service providers who suddenly cut their ties with the website. The move happened after it was revealed that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter killing 11 in 2018 was a regular Gab user using the platform to promote its ideology.
Gab is a platform preferred by many disinformation or hate speech actors. Like with other alternative platform, users like to benefit from having multiple accounts on other platforms and advertise for them. La Croix Du Sud, an account specialised in translating conspiratorial or disinformative content here promotes his Rumble and Odysee channels.
Gab is openly dealing in the Free Speech marketing, branding themselves as protecting free speech and being the safe place for everything that is not unlawful in the US. They brand it in their 2020 annual report.
When the internet infrastructure does not want you
Gab came under real pressure after one discovered a Gab account attributed to Robert Bowers, the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, charged with killing 11 people.
After the massacre, Gab was exposed as a hate platform and subsequently dropped by its partners and had to struggle to stay online and with still accepting regular antisemitic posting on its platform.
Gab history since that day, is a very interesting tale on how third-party services can be pressured for regulating alternative platforms when it comes to a certain point, and what can alternative platform do to avoid being regulated.
After Pittsburgh, PayPal and Stripe stopped their service with Gab. Now monetisation is still possible but via Bitcoin, E-Check and Mail in Check
Gab was also told by GoDaddy, the domain name registrar, that it had 24 hours to find another name registrar service “We have informed Gab.com that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another registrar, as they have violated our terms of service. In response to complaints received over the weekend, GoDaddy investigated and discovered numerous instances of content on the site that both promotes and encourages violence against people.”
Any website will need someone to provide a domain name which will be their registered address. And registrars can become pressure point. As the Verge article puts it, “registrars, which sell web addresses on behalf of the multinational organization ICANN, are a vulnerable pressure point in the alt-right’s quest to establish an unmoderated online space”
Andrew Torba, Gab’s founder, looked for several ways to bypass this and to stay online without altering its “free speech” service. He did consider a possible Blockchain alternative to ICANN but gave up on the idea.
Torba eventually went back online with the help of “Alt-Tech” services. Alt-Tech is an ecosystem sat up by far-right and alternative people willing to establish a “censorship” free and hate speech friendly internet, creating alternative services to any service that might be regulated. Gab used the services of Epik, an Alt-Tech registrar and hosting company known for hosting neo-Nazis or far-right platforms and websites banned from other services (like Parler, Gab, Bitchute, Daily Stormer or 8Chan).
Now Gab has moved to Mastodon, a decentralised platform to be back online (a platform ironically designed to be Nazi-free and explicitly banning Nazi content). With that move, Gab was able to be back on AppStore and Google Play Store embedded in third party Mastodon application.
Gab is not just a platform, it has also other services. Gab is from an “alt tech” culture, trying to build as much as they can, and create a complete alternative environment independant from the rest of the internet. The ultimate “echo chamber”. Thus Gab has a messaging app, a browser (dissenter), a video platform, a news aggregator etc.
The news aggregator is called “Gab Trends” and it operates on the gab.com website. A “dissenter” extension can also be installed on a browser. The extension allows one to comment on Gab while directly browsing the internet, but it can not be simply installed in one click because the dissenter extension is banned from chrome web store.
Gab has also a smartphone application but here again, being banned from Google Play and AppStore makes it more complicated to use it. It is always possible to install all the Gab AI Inc. products on your phone or computer, but it can no longer be done with one click.
What can still be done with one click however is the sharing of content from Gab to other mainstream platforms. The one click sharing is available on Gab Trends and on Gab Videos.
Clicking on these buttons will redirect you on a prepared post on your own account
Gab terms of services
Even lose, Gab has some terms of services that includes “Content Standards”.
– Content related to paedophilia and harming minors.
– Knowingly receive, re-use, upload or download content material that does not comply with the Content Standards (meaning they have some standards)
– Spam and chain of mails.
– Impersonation of any person or entity for a purpose that is not protected by the First Amendment.
– To engage in any other conduct which may result in the physical harm or offline harassment (e.g., “doxing”)
Gab promises that any moderation will respect the users’ “God-given right to speak freely” but very cautiously explains that in case of doubt, the moderation may take the side of caution
“We strive to ensure that the First Amendment remains the Website’s standard for content moderation. We will make best efforts to ensure that all content moderation decisions and enforcement of these terms of service does not punish users for exercising their God-given right to speak freely (…) given the breadth of speech we permit, there may be circumstances where we are unable to determine whether content is protected by the First Amendment or not and prudence may require us to err on the side of caution.”
Offensive speech is not prohibited but users are encouraged not to use it too much:
“Although our Content Standards, following the First Amendment, do not proscribe offensive speech, we strongly encourage you to ensure that your User Contributions are cordial and civil. The foundation of a free society requires people to peacefully settle their differences through dialogue and debate. Gab exists to promote the free flow of information online. It is our view that the responsible exercise of one’s free speech rights is its own reward and, as a general rule, the most well-respected online publishers tend to be the ones who behave the most civilly and put forward their arguments most intelligently.”
However, there are content prohibited on Gab in the “Content Standards” part of the Terms of Services. Content must not: Be unlawful or be made in furtherance of any unlawful purpose; Unlawfully threaten; Incite imminent lawless action; Interfere with the operation of any computer; Be obscene, sexually explicit or pornographic; Infringe any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright (Copyright infringement is serious for Gab and it has a dedicated page) ; Violate legal rights of others (including the rights of publicity and privacy) – doxing; Impersonate any person, or misrepresent your identity; Involve commercial activities relating to finance, investments or gambling.
Gab is the perfect example of how the right to free hate speech can be constrained and regulated if third parties are involved. Despite the belief that it is possible to create places on the internet where regulation can be avoided, internet is a big network of interconnection. If some places are regulated, it will have an impact on unregulated spaces. Reversely, the unregulated spaces are not and cannot be disconnected from the regulated spaces. Services on the internet are operated by mainstream, big tech companies that can be asked to answer for some responsibilities in the content that circulate on their networks and using their services to spread. But mainstream company can no longer rely on algorithmic ban and automated removal that sends malevolent actors to alternative speaces from where they are allowed to republish content.