Gab, a social networking site often accused of being a haven for white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups, went offline Monday after being refused by several web hosting providers following revelations that Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers used the platform to threaten Jews.
“Gab isn’t going anywhere,” said Andrew Torba, chief executive officer and creator of Gab.com. “We will exercise every possible avenue to keep Gab online and defend free speech and individual liberty for all people.
Founded two years ago as an alternative to mainstream social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Torba billed Gab as a haven for free speech. The site soon began attracting online members of the alt-right and other extremist ideologies unwelcome on other platforms.
“What makes the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly qualified to tell us what is ‘news’ and what is ‘trending’ and to define what “harassment” means?” Torba wrote in a 2016 email to Buzzfeed News.
The tide swiftly turned against Gab after Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue Saturday morning with an assault rifle and several handguns, killing 11 and wounding six.
It came to light that Bowers had made several anti-Semitic posts on the site, including one the morning of the shooting that read “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.” HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) helps refugees resettle in the United States.
Following Bowers’ posts being picked up by national media, PayPal and payment processor Stripe announced that they would be ending their relationship with Gab. Hosting providers followed soon after, and the website was nonfunctional by Monday morning.
In an interview with NPR aired Monday, Torba defended leaving up Bowers’ post from the morning of the shooting.
“Do you see a direct threat in there?” Torba said. “Because I don’t. What would you expect us to do with a post like that? You want us to just censor anybody who says the phrase ‘I’m going in’? Because that’s just absurd.”