With mainstream social media channels becoming increasingly strict on “hate speech”, people with extremist views have had to find alternatives to popular social networking websites in order to be able to share their views.
This has led to websites such as Gab. Gab, an alternative to websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, allows users to post multimedia and messages up to 300 characters but does not put restraints on what can be posted on their website.
According to Andrew Torba, the Texan who established Gab in 2016, “Gab stands for bringing folks together of all races, religions, and creeds who share the common ideals of Western values, individual liberty and the free exchange of ideas.”
At first glance, Gab appears to be a close variation on Twitter, with a cute frog logo in place of the blue bird. This smirking frog, however, quickly turns a bit sinister once its meaning is broken down.
The frog is easily mistaken to be “Pepe”, the alt-right mascot which has been classed as a hate symbol due to its use in racist memes. However, according to Torba, it’s actually a reference to Bible verses where frogs were sent by God to punish. This sets the scene from the very first click to what sort of site this really is behind all the PR jargon.
Once you check the site out for yourself, this claim of it being a site for all “races, religions, and creeds” is a bit hard to take seriously as its initially clean aesthetic is quickly diminished after a few scrolls down and the dark hate-filled content rears its head.
This concept of an alternative Twitter has been a long time coming with the growing culture of online alt-right transgression where political correctness and censorship is hated by newly emerging segments of the new “right”.
This new group no longer correlate themselves with traditional conservatism, which they consider to appease the “leftist agenda”, which covers issues such as immigration, same-sex marriage, etc.
The group that most Gab users would fall into is the “alt-lite”. This group consists mainly of people looking to provoke and cause outrage.
Milo Yiannopoulos, the self-proclaimed “most fabulous supervillain on the internet”, is the de facto poster boy of the alt-lite. He often highlights the fact that he is both gay and Jewish or that he’s not interested in politics, but just wants to be a “punk” and infuriate “crybaby college students”.
Yiannopoulos has made a career of making statements like “Islam/Feminism is cancer”, has called a reporter a “thick as pig shit Jew” and said that transgender people are “mentally ill”. He also wrote in his book Dangerous that being gay is a choice; a choice he made just because it was “edgy” and cool.
Another subgroup of the right found on Gab is a more serious threat and do more than just talk. These are genuine white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who have taken over the alt-right. The most infamous of these is Richard Spencer, who is calling for a white ethno-state. He also believes non-white Americans should leave the country as part of “peaceful ethnic cleansing”.
Both Yiannopoulos and Spencer found themselves banned from Twitter during what has been called the “Twitter purge” of 2016, where the social media site clamped down on users in breach of their policy. This muting of what most would consider “hate speech”, but is argued by the alt-right to be free speech, led to a backlash against Twitter in the right-wing online sphere.
This led to Yiannopoulos and Spencer, along with their like minded followers, revelling in the idea of a censorship free site where “free speech” is the main priority, and the stars aligned for a site like Gab to grow.
Gab was up and running for users (or ‘Gabbers’) to start creating accounts in May 2017.
Apple refused to host Gab in the App Store, citing the reason to be pornographic content and hate speech. Legal pornography is permitted on the site as long as it has an “NSFW”(not safe for work) tag.
Google Play initially hosted the app until it was removed in mid-August, saying that the app failed to “demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people”.
Despite Torba’s claims that the site is not a “Twitter for racists”, from scrolling through the site, it’s easy to see that this is a place where pent-up rage and hatred is released and celebrated, a place where aggressive racism, misogyny, Islamophobia and Antisemitism is acceptable.
The social network now claims to have over 215,000 users. This figure is less than one percent of Twitter’s 328 million monthly users.
However, as we’ve learned through recent events, this underground world of alternative media has been leaking into politics and real-world danger, and so it’s important for us to be aware of what we’re dealing with, as unpleasant as it may be.
by Mary-Kate Findon