Gab, the Pittsburgh Shooting, and the Danger of Echo Chambers

Gab is a cesspool of racism, not a free speech cause.

On Saturday, Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring 6. During his attack, he continually shouted anti-Semitic statements, even during a dramatic gunfight with police. He told one officer, “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.”

This is horrific. My heart goes out to all of my Jewish friends who are grieving today. I grieve with you.

In light of yet another act of hate, we must understand and process the events leading up to the expression of such vitriolic hate. This depraved way of thinking and acting doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t randomly appear. This type of hate forms over time and within a supportive community that normalizes and cultivates this evil into a fever pitch.

And if we think it can never happen to us, we ought just to look to Pittsburgh.

The role of Gab

In August 2016, the social network Gab was formed in response to censorship of hateful speech on popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Popular alt-right leaders were being banned for harassment and hate speech, and Gab was formed with the misnomer of “protecting free speech.”

For many people, they first heard of Gab this weekend.

But, long before Bowers picked up a gun and put Gab on the front page of the news, the social network was known for being a safe haven for neo-Nazis, those posting perverse pornograhic material, and others promoting hate speech against African Americans and Jews. Gab’s domain has been threatened and moved multiple times in 2016 and 2017, and Apple and Google have denied their app both on pornographic and hate speech grounds.

This is not a place where free speech is protected. Instead, it is a social media …

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