Earlier on Saturday, a man shot up the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing 11 people before being arrested by the police. The 46-year-old suspect, Robert Bowers, has had a history of anti-Semitic speech on a social network platform called Gab. Following the news report of the shooting, tech companies such as PayPal, Stripe and hosting company Joyent terminated their services with Gab.
A PayPal spokesperson addressed the ban with tech site The Verge, and cited hate speech as the reason for termination. They claimed the ban came because it was revealed the shooter had shown his intentions on the site shortly before the attack.
“The company is diligent in performing reviews and taking account actions. When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action.”
— Gab.com🍂 (@getongab) October 27, 2018
Following the shooting, media outlets began posting snippets of Bowers’ anti-Semitic rhetoric on Gab. A Gab spokesperson addressed the claims on Medium saying that the company “unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence.”
A segment of the statement reads as follows:
“We are saddened and disgusted by the news of violence in Pittsburgh and are keeping the families and friends of all victims in our thoughts and prayers.”
“We refuse to be defined by the media’s narratives about Gab and our community. Gab’s mission is very simple: to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people. Social media often brings out the best and the worst of humanity. From live streamed murders on Facebook, to threats of violence by bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc Jr. that went unaddressed by Twitter, and more. Criminals and criminal behavior exist on every social media platform.”
A Gab spokesperson mentioned that they cooperated with law enforcement and turned in information from his profile after learning of Browers’ actions.
Earlier last night, Gab posted yet another screenshot of a notice that they received from hosting company Joynet. It states that it “received notice of breach of the Joyent Terms of Service,” and that the site would be suspended as of 9:00AM ET on Monday, October 29th. Gab affirms that it is solving the issue and the network would “likely be down for weeks because of this.”
Breaking: @joyent, Gab’s new hosting provider, has just pulled our hosting service. They have given us until 9am on Monday to find a solution. Gab will likely be down for weeks because of this. Working on solutions. We will never give up on defending free speech for all people. pic.twitter.com/YvnBOFoQQn
— Gab.com🍂 (@getongab) October 28, 2018
Gab followed up that notification with a second screenshot which says that Stripe suspended its services to the site’s account. They investigate the issue further, saying that the company had “not provided us sufficient evidence that Gab actually prevents violations of our policies in your Gab Pro service, or any other portion of your service that relies on Stripe for monetization.” According to Stripe, the investigation will go on for a week.
Gab states that they suspended Bower’s account instantly, but rejected the notion that the platform fosters violence and alt-right extremism. Nonetheless, they expect to be banned from Twitter and Facebook soon.
— Gab.com🍂 (@getongab) October 28, 2018
Major tech companies have long condemned Gab for fostering hate speech by giving it a free-access platform.
Companies like Apple refused to host Gab’s application on their Apple store, and Google removed the app from its Play store back in August 2017. Both companies cited that Gab violated hate speech policy. Further, Microsoft threatened the social network after anti-Semitic posts were published earlier this July.
After PayPal’s ban, Gab firmly stated that they do not “allow terrorists on our platform” and dismissed the notion that their content leads to violence.
But researchers have found that anti-Semitic messaging on online platforms is on the rise, and the attempted bombing of prominent Trump critics in the past week has put a spotlight on the role that online rhetoric has played in recent weeks, months, and years.