Gab, the free speech platform dedicated to free and open expression of ideas and viewpoints from all sides, has once more come under fire from a relentless campaign against it to strangle and hinder the platforms influence on the internet. This latest attack has been directed straight at Gab’s finances with Paypal, Stripe, Coinbase and Bitpay all suspending operations with the Social media site.
Gab has unquestionably been outspoken in its beliefs, and its dedication to the US first amendment, holding itself to these same standards:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
Gab in many ways is a reaction to traditional social media websites such as Twitter which continue to crackdown on what it sees as inappropriate, distasteful and offensive content on its service, even if it undermines others speech. Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey sat down with wired.com a few weeks ago and expressed a belief that there needs to be a balance of free speech and ‘people feeling safe to express themselves’.
This sentiment has also more recently been echoed by Apple CEO, Tim Cook. Such statements are often said in a way that makes it hard to argue. Yes ‘hate’, ‘division’ and ‘violence’ are bad traits that are undesirable and yes of course we should have moderation to keep the space in order. The issue is quite often that these statements are not clearly defined and leads to double standards allowing those moderating content to interpret and silence those who they may simply disagree with.
This was perhaps most exemplified in the case of Sarah Jeong and Candice Owens. Earlier this year Owens adapted tweets from Jeong swapping out ‘white’ for ‘black’ and ‘Jewish’ to highlight the discriminatory views held by Jeong. The result? Candice Owens was banned for her ‘racist and offensive’ tweets while Jeong’s still stand to this day with the support and backing of her employer, the New York Times. It had somehow become acceptable to say things about a certain demographic of people but unacceptable about another. That was not equal treatment under Twitter’s own rules, either both tweets are fine or neither are.
“I actually agree with Twitter”…“These tweets are an example of hateful conduct. It begs the question — why was it okay when the hate was directed at White people? Why are her tweets still up?” — Candice Owens
This is not just limited to twitter, Owens had also mocked the NYT article “Can My Children Be Friends With White People”. Facebook Banned her for 24hrs for breaking their rules on ‘Attacking, race, gender ethnicity…’ and removed the post.
One more recent example saw comedian, Kevin Hart step down from hosting the Oscars due to backlash over previous ‘offensive and derogatory tweets’ posted back in 2010. Fellow comedian, Nick Canon in response shared old tweets from prominent politically correct figures to highlight the one sided hypocrisy of how these situations are treated.
Australian Comedian Lewis Spears also mocked the situation in his sketch ‘Fired.’
A culture of one rule for one and another for the rest has begun to emerge across all big tech companies and that is the problem. The father of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee issued a warning that these tech giants need regulation to prevent an Internet that is “weaponised at scale,” in effect a first amendment that extends to the internet.
“The web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.”
“What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms,”… (that) “control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared”. — Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Whatever you views of the right wing political pundit ‘Alex Jones’, his blacklisting from the internet by Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc all within 24hrs of one another shows how despite being separate businesses, these platforms all talk to one another and are closely connected.
Gab CEO, Andrew Torba launched the platform back in 2016 with a “mission to defend individual liberty and free expression online”. Since then Gab has become home to people from all walks of life openly discussing ideas in the sunlight, instead of allowing them to fester in the dark on obscure blogs where actions are harder to catch, address and be challenged.
The refusal to silence people with unpopular, offensive, unsavoury opinions or treat certain users differently due to their own political bias is one of the reasons Gab has been smeared as a platform for extremists and full of undesirables. When it was discovered that an individual who shot and killed 11 at a synagogue in Pittsburg, US, also happened to have a Gab account, the narrative was set in motion by many large influential media publications that this tragedy was a direct result of Gab and their policies. Andrew Torba was also dragged through the media circus alongside the killers image.
The effects were instant, Joylent, Gabs web-host pulled out resulting in the site going offline. GoDaddy refused to touch them, Stripe, Paypal, Bitpay and Coinbase all dropped out fearing damage by association and honestly its hard to blame them when the pervasive view was so one sided. Facebook, Twitter and Google have all each had deranged individuals who would go on a killing spree after posting concerning content on their platforms. The situation was far more than just one sick individual, it was a fundamental disagreement with what Gab stood for.
“One rule for one and another for the rest, that is the problem.”
In an attempt to quell the raging fire, Torba published a statement to medium… it was removed and the account suspended. Gab found itself kicked from the internet by those who operated many necessary aspects of it, unable to effectively defend itself from these attacks.
People should be free to use whichever platforms they want with the confidence that the rules will be enforced evenly and without bias. Gab had not conducted any illegal activities and the unanimous move against them is concerning exposing a lack of diversity in beliefs held by those in positions of power and influence.
Situations such as these exemplify an often overlooked but very valuable aspect of cryptocurrency, censorship resistance. Bitcoin and Litecoin are free from central control or influence, they don't cave to pressure or popular opinion and no one can stop individuals utilising them. This makes them a very powerful and liberating tool for circumventing authoritarian actors be it on or offline and provides a way for people to vote directly, securely and pseudo anonymously with their wallet.
The internet is not decentralised and the Bitcoin and Litecoin developers realise this, which is why they are working tirelessly to ensure these networks don’t end up in a similar position where trusted parties are required. Nicolas Dorier is one of those developers and when he saw services such as Bitpay lie and push their own agenda on the Bitcoin Network he began working on BTCPayServer, a completely open source payment processor which allows anyone to receive payments in Bitcoin, Litecoin and altcoins directly, with no fees, transaction cost or a middleman.
Unfortunately Gab was reliant on others and had a face in Torba which is why it was easy to attack, Bitcoin on the other hand has no one to drag through the dirt, a smart move by its mysterious creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Yet despite being portrayed as a tool for criminals cryptocurrency continues to grow and help bring economic freedom to the disenfranchised and benefits to the legacy financial system. Much in the same way TOR is attacked as a service for criminals to anonymise themselves online, it continues to grow as a valuable tool for people who live under regressive regimes to openly talk and share stories with others. Even the New York Times runs an onion service to provide a safe way to provide news to people who rely on Tor.
Gab has cut out one dependancy and is now supported financially by Bitcoin and Litecoin. Gab has also found a new home with epik.com a Seattle based web host that shares similar principals.
As the new counter wave of Tech businesses rise up outside of Silicon Valley it will become harder to silence and no platform competitors and in true Streisand fashion throughout it all Gab has continued to grow an increasing rate during the whole saga as more people became aware of it.
An honourable mention also goes to Patreon which began clamping down and banning many prominent figures from its platform, subsequently starving them of necessary funding from their fans to operate.