When the white nationalist leader Richard B. Spencer was suspended from Twitter recently, he hopped over to YouTube to address his supportersreports Amanda Hess, as the New York Times perpetuates the caricature of conservatives (among other ways, by using words like "slithering"), decides who is a liar and who isn't (hint: it's never a leftist), decides what is harassment and what's not (hint: it is only on the right and only occurs against leftists), and decides what is fake news and what isn't (it never seems to occur in the left's mainstream media).
“Digitally speaking,” he said, Twitter had sent “execution squads across the alt-right.” He accused Twitter of “purging people on the basis of their views,” calling it “corporate Stalinism.” Then he mapped out a path forward. “There’s obviously Gab, which is an interesting medium,” he said. “I think that will be the place where we go next.”
Gab is a new social network built like a hybrid of Twitter and Reddit — posts are capped at 300 characters, and the crowd votes to boost or demote posts in the feed. But Gab’s defining feature is its user guidelines, or rather, its lack thereof. Gab bans illegal activities — child pornography, threats of violence, terrorism — and not much else. “Facebook, Twitter and Reddit are taking the path of censorship,” Utsav Sanduja, Gab’s chief communications officer, told me via email. “Gab does not.”
Think of Gab as the Make America Great Again of social sites: It’s a throwback to the freewheeling norms of the old internet, before Twitter started cracking down on harassment and Reddit cleaned out its darkest corners. And since its debut in August, it has emerged as a digital safe space for the far right, where white nationalists, conspiracy-theorist YouTubers, and minivan majority moms can gather without liberal interference.
This election laid bare the ideological divide on social media, and since the election, the rift has deepened. Just as dejected Hillary Clinton supporters have come together in Pantsuit Nation — a “secret” Facebook group of nearly four million members — some on the right have found their postelection online oasis in the invitation-only Gab.Gab’s 25-year-old founder, Andrew Torba, dreamed up the site after reading reports that Facebook employees suppress conservative articles on the site. Mr. Torba — who previously created Kuhcoon, a system for running automated Facebook ad campaigns (it’s now called Automate Ads) — is a rare conservative Christian tech C.E.O. Gab is a corrective to what he dubs “Big Social,” and it’s based on what the company calls “a pluralistic ethos of mutual respect and toleration of dissonant views.”
When other social sites push out disruptive users, Gab opens its arms. Recently, Twitter beefed up abuse rules to police not only threats but also hate speech “against a race, religion, gender, or orientation.” (The move presaged the purge that swept up Mr. Spencer.) And Reddit erased a community called Pizzagate, where conspiracy theorists had gathered to spin lies about Democratic pedophiles operating out of a D.C. pizzeria. On Gab, the topic is always trending.
All the big-name Twitter castaways have resurfaced here: In addition to Mr. Spencer, there is Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart editor who was barred from Twitter for siccing trolls on the “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones; Pax Dickinson, the former Business Insider chief technology officer who rebranded himself as a victim of P.C. culture when he was sacked for posting sexist tweets; and Tila Tequila, the reality TV star who was booted from Twitter after posting racial slurs and pro-Nazi stuff. Gab has also attracted the cutting conservative commentator Ann Coulter; the right-wing media guerrilla Mike Cernovich; and the disinformation king Alex Jones, founder of Infowars. Gab now hosts 98,000 accounts, with tens of thousands more hopeful members on a wait list.… While mainstream social networks are promising to crack down on “fake news,” Gab clears the runway for posts like “Satanic PizzaGate Is Going Viral Worldwide (Elites Are Terrified)” to pick up speed. Ricky Vaughn, a pseudonymous white nationalist (he takes his name from Charlie Sheen’s character in “Major League”) also barred from Twitter, posted to Gab that Twitter is effectively dead and should now be used only to pull off “skirmishes” against Twitter denizens. Gab would be a convenient base for recruiting more digital foot soldiers to that cause.
But some have worried that the site’s insulation can dampen their message. “Now that Twitter is purging everyone, I think it’s important for Gab to branch out and attract leftists so we’re not just preaching to the choir,” wrote Paul Joseph Watson, editor at large at Infowars.When I asked why the site leans conservative, Mr. Sanduja denied that Gab had any ideological bent. “We challenge this premise completely — to the contrary, Gab has a number of diverse users globally,” he wrote. (There is a politely argumentative Democrat who goes by the handle @Democrat, for instance.) But he added that right-wing users would be naturally drawn to Gab.“When a group of people are being systematically dehumanized and labeled as the alphabet soup of phobias,” he wrote, “they will look for a place that will allow them to speak freely without censorship and devoid of Social Justice bullying.”