Gab, an alternative social media platform, gained attention and sparked controversy in recent years due to its unique approach to free speech. In a democratic republic, freedom of speech should be normal, not controversial. This approach is unique only because most of the other big social platforms actively suppress free speech.
In 2018, Gab was marked as having an association with extremist content, after a single incident. But critics ignore multiple incidents on other platforms that censor speech. Most of these ongoing claims are pushed by left-leaning critics intent on silencing the platform, in the name of “democracy.”
Of note is that those who shout most about threats to democracy also support censorship, a concept antithetical to democracy.
While some view Gab as a champion of free expression, others criticize it for becoming a platform that promotes hate speech and misinformation. They label as “hate speech” or “misinformation” anything they don’t like. They are people incapable of substantive discussion about anything related to politics, and their tactics are shouting, belittling and censorship.
Gab was launched in 2016 as an alternative to mainstream social media platforms, positioned as a platform that champions freedom of speech and providing a space for individuals who had their voices stifled on other platforms. It gained traction among certain communities, particularly those with right-side political ideologies, who felt marginalized or censored on mainstream social media.
One of Gab’s key differentiators is its commitment to minimizing content moderation. Unlike platforms like Facebook or Twitter that employ algorithms and human moderators to filter out what they consider harmful or inappropriate content, Gab allows users to post virtually anything within the boundaries of U.S. law. This approach garnered both support and criticism.
Proponents argue that Gab provides a platform for free expression and counters the open censorship prevalent on mainstream social media platforms. They say Gab’s commitment to free speech protects unpopular or controversial viewpoints that are now suppressed elsewhere. Additionally, some appreciate the ability to create and join niche communities tailored to their specific interests.
Critics have raised concerns about Gab’s hands-off content moderation policies. They claim the policy of adhering to the First Amendment leads to the proliferation of hate speech, extremist ideologies, and conspiracy theories on the platform. The critics leveled accusations of it becoming a hub for white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other extremist groups. They argue that the platform’s hands-off approach enables the spread of what they call harmful content that can fuel real-world violence and discrimination.
Some observers say those critics wouldn’t know real hate speech if it smacked them in the face.
Jordan Peterson on Free Speech
Jordan Peterson says free speech is about “talking and listening”:
And when you talk it doesn’t mean you’re right. …
It means you’re trying to articulate and formulate your thoughts …
And you are going to stumble around idiotically because what the hell do you know.
You are full of biases, and you’re ignorant, and you can’t speak very well, and you’re over-emotional.
And so what you do is you do your best to see what you mean.
And then you listen to other people tell you why you’re a blithering idiot.
And hopefully, you can correct yourself to some degree as a consequence of listening to them.
And you see that is what free speech is about.
See “Jordan Peterson on freedom of speech” for more of what he said.
Freedom of speech is not just another principle, it is the mechanism by which we keep our psyches and our societies organized and we have to be unbelievably careful about infringing upon that because we are infringing upon the process by which we keep chaos and order balanced and if chaos and order go out of balance then all hell breaks loose and the situation is not good. – Jordan Peterson.
Gab faced legal and reputational challenges over the years. In 2018, following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, it was discovered the perpetrator had posted anti-Semitic messages on Gab before the attack, leading to widespread condemnation. This incident prompted service providers, such as domain registrars and payment processors, to sever ties with the company, effectively limiting its reach, accessibility and access to finance.
To address some of these concerns, Gab implemented measures to improve content moderation and tackle the spread of illegal or harmful content. It introduced community guidelines and policies that aim to strike a balance between protecting free speech and preventing the proliferation of explicit violence, pornography, and other explicitly prohibited content.
What Is and Is Not Allowed
Gab does not censor first amendment-protected political speech that appears on the site. Their Terms of Service are the most pro-First Amendment terms on the internet. For that, they have been attacked and smeared by Big Tech, the mainstream media, members of Congress, and others.
Here is what Gab says is not allowed on their platform: Political speech which is unlawful in the United States, not protected by the First Amendment, or which in their reasonable opinion will lead to unlawful activity such as offline harassment. Such content includes threats of violence, doxxing, illegal transactions, child exploitation, and pornography. This makes Gab unique not only among the Big Tech established social networks and also against competitors in the “alt-tech” landscape as well.
Gab founder, Andrew Torba, a Christian software engineer, said “As a result of our free speech principles, Gab has been no-platformed and banned by more than 25 service providers over the years, including both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, payment processors, and hosting providers.”
Due to being refused service by service providers and financial services, Gab created its own and became more resilient. They depend solely on their community from around the world to support the site financially. To prevent weak service providers shutting them down for perceived wrongdoing or wrong-think, they built their own in-house infrastructure from the ground up.
Joe Rogan, speaking about Gab said. “the best way to ensure that good ideas get through is to not suppress bad ideas, but to combat them with better ideas.”
What is Gab?
Gab is a social platform with features similar to Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook. Gab Social is monetized with Gab Ads, supported by the subscription GabPRO service. It features profile pages for members, groups, and feeds, with direct messaging, and notifications.
More than just a social platform, Gab created its own ecosystem. It is a work in progress.
Gab Marketplace allows members to buy and sell goods and services from one another. The Marketplace is used by small business owners, entrepreneurs and individuals. It is a mix of job postings, classifieds and direct commerce with multiple categories.
Gab TV is a video hosting platform, where members can upload videos, and others can embed, share and comment. Gab TV is monetized in two ways.
Gab Voice is a video conferencing and live streaming platform, with private or public Gab Voice rooms. Members can host video calls and audio-only calls, with screen sharing.
Gab Ads allow businesses, brands and member to to run ad campaigns on Gab Social and Gab TV.
GabPay is a peer-to-peer payment processing platform, created after Paypal, Stripe, Square and others tried to shut them down by starving them financially. They plan to integrate GabPay into all services for tipping, e-commerce, and monetization of content.
GabPRO is the platform’s premium-user subscription program. GabPRO unlocks additional features on Gab Social such as disabling ads and allowing verification, and availability of Gab Voice.
Unabashedly pro-America, pro-freedom, pro-God, and pro-family, they sell merchandise such as hats, shirts, mugs, phone cases, with various messaging, in the Dissenter Shop.
The ongoing debate surrounding Gab highlights the complexities and ongoing discussions around the balance between free speech, moderation, and the responses of social media platforms in the digital age.
Interestingly, while many big companies attacked Gab for a single transgression, no such thing happened to mainstream platforms when they were associated with child pornography and human trafficking. This fact shows that there is a concerted campaign to control people and companies that step out of line.
The big companies attacking Gab are engaged in collusion to destroy their enemy. Independent observers might recognize this as meaning those big companies are controlled not by their C-suite, but by more powerful forces that can make them act in unison.
In conclusion, Gab has emerged as a social media platform known for its commitment to free speech and minimal content moderation. It attracted a user base that seeks an alternative to dictatorial mainstream platforms. Although its previous association with extremist content resulted in notable challenges for the company, it appears to have overcome those challenges, to pave its own path to success.
Editor’s Note: I have been on the platform irregularly since late 2017, and I don’t recall seeing any content or speech that isn’t allowed by the First Amendment.