How’s that social media working out for you?
Despite having offered a promise of social media where open discussion could occur, “free speech” social media site Gab.com has begun releasing private information of users and shadowbanning conservatives despite a lack of violations of its terms of service or even threatening behavior.
As documented by Gab.com users, the site has leaked the private phone number of Chris Cantwell while targeting him for speech violations, despite his speech being in line with the Gab.com terms of service (TOS).
You can see the drama play out, ironically, on Twitter where Epik.com CEO Rob Monster appears to be collaborating with Leftist users to remove content from Gab.com, apparently with the endorsement of its owners.
In addition, my account on Gab.com has lost its ability to reply to messages, post new messages, and reply to comments; it can repost content but not offer commentary. The site throws error messages — either “an error has occurred” or “could not post this comment” — in response to any attempts to post even simple text messages.
Clinging to social media are you?
Not content with shadow-banning conservative accounts and refusing to admit doing so via its support channel, Gab.com has doubled down on its new pro-censorship policy by banning critics of Gab and its host Epik as if it were trying to cover up the new censorship regime upon which Gab has embarked.
Building more followers on social media seems like a really good use of your finite life.
In addition, Gab.com seems to catch and ban accounts critical of Gab.com within fifteen minutes, but this glitch has persisted for days despite numerous emails to the support account. While the support staff — Torba’s wife Emily — are very pleasant, they seem to have no answers.
For this reason, I remain wary of Gab.com at this time, and encourage conservatives to drop the social media model and instead set up a network of independent sites. It seems that, in this time, open discussion is still too dangerous for commercial and government interests to support it, but separate social networks of decentralized sites can survive.
An informal network of small sites is inherently resistant to censorship, which is why the internet was designed around this formula: if one node goes down, others can fill in the slack.
By that mindset, having a thousand small blogs beats out having one giant social media service because no one can control all of them at once and thus alter mindset. Whether this Gab.com problem is a shadowban or a coding error, it reveals the weakness of the centralized model and why it will not serve conservatives.
Posting every thought you have on social media is a great idea.
I had not been planning on writing more articles about Gab.com, since it seems like they are having a serious problem. Either they have no idea how their own system works, or they are shadowbanning me for some bizarre reason, but either way the service is facing a rough future as more users leave.
In the meantime, Gab.com has kick-started a revolution as multiple free speech services start up, including one, TrumpTown, which got coverage from Fox News and other major conservative outlets, suggesting that its founders are well-connected. With this competition, Gab.com faces a difficult path.
What inspired me to write this was a post by founder Andrew Torba. I have never attacked him, nor Gab.com, and in fact have been a vocal promoter and defender of Gab since I first encountered it. I have built up an audience of nearly 5,000 followers there, posted much content, and debated in favor of Gab’s “legal free speech only” policy. Still, for some reason, the I find myself under verbal attack:
Be sure to post selfies and personal information on social media.
Gab.com has given themselves a justification to delete just about any content by categorizing it as “threatening”:
Furthermore, we actively monitor the site for speech that crosses the line from the merely outrageous into the truly threatening or unlawful. Where criminal activity is brought to our attention, we act swiftly to curtail it and, where possible, cooperate with law enforcement to ensure our users’ safety – real, physical, safety, not wishy-washy millennial “safe space” safety – is secured.
This comes from their most recent mailing to subscribers, which extensively touted Gab.com’s free speech agenda. However, nowhere do they mention deleting troll accounts, unless we are to assume that those were “truly threatening” by some interpretation. One might view trolls as threatening to Gab.com, and therefore under the letter of their commitment, able to be deleted.
In the meantime, most of the far-Right have realized that companies like Gab.com are more interested in mainstream Trump supporters than extremists, and have gone back to forums, smaller websites, IRC, and looser messaging formats. A company that deletes trolls will over time come to delete anyone who rocks the boat and threatens its profit model, which means that any far-Righter posting there risks having his or her entire contribution erased, along with it hours of effort.
Gab.ai. Speak freely.
At the time of this writing, Gab.com criticism and parody account AndyTurbo has vanished with its user page returning a 404 error. That account, parodying Andrew Torba the Gab.com CEO, offered pointed criticism of Gab.com’s “free speech with an expanding list of exceptions” policy and often attacked Torba itself.
While none will claim that this account was in good taste, it was not fully in bad taste either, and raised some important objections to the ongoing Gab.com descent into censorship. I have reached out to the person I believe to be the creator of this account and am attempting to verify what has happened now, but it does not look good for Gab.com, which had deleted previous critic accounts without them appearing to have infringed on its use policy.
Maybe the next social media website will be different.