Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack Puts Renewed Focus on Social Network Gab

Founded in 2016, this site has become a popular, online safe haven for right-wing extremism.

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, where a right-wing extremist murdered 11 people and wounded 29 early Saturday morning, more focus is returning to one of the perpetrator’s favorite online haunts, Gab.com. Founded in the fall of 2016, the new social network was embraced from the very beginning by many in the alt right and white nationalist community—among them, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos—many of whom had been banned from Twitter for violent or hateful rhetoric.

It was on Gab that the Pittsburgh synagogue murderer posted a final, chilling message before carrying out his deadly attack: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” the killer wrote, in reference to his belief in a conspiracy theory that a caravan of hopeful Central American asylees marching through Mexico were part of an orchestrated, left-wing campaign run by Jews to threaten white Americans. “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Gab’s anything-goes “free speech” policy has helped it remain an incubator and safe haven for extremist hate speech and white supremacists online, according to the New York Times In January, the Pittsburgh synagogue killer signed up for a Gab account and almost immediately began sharing virulent anti-Semitic images and memes. As the Times reports: “[The killer’s] bio on the site read, ‘Jews are the children of Satan,’ and a photo on his profile included the number 1488, a winking reference that is popular among white supremacists.” Despite this rhetoric, the killer’s Gab account wasn’t shut down until after his role in the killing spree was revealed on Saturday.

Gab put out a statement saying it is cooperating fully with authorities who are investigating the killer. Gab founder Andrew Torba, however, remained unbowed about his social network’s philosophy, as well as his affinity for its core audience: “Twitter and other platforms police ‘hate speech’ as long as it isn’t against President Trump, white people, Christians, or minorities who have walked away from the Democratic Party,” he wrote. “This double standard does not exist on Gab.”



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