As tech companies banned Donald Trump from social media, another site called Gab claims to be attracting thousands of new users.
Gab is a social media site popular with the far right. It said on Twitter that there have been more than 10,000 people signing up every hour and millions visiting the site.
Twitter permanently banned the US President from using his account, citing the risk of further incitement of violence, after rioters breached the Capitol last week. Facebook and Instagram have also blocked Mr Trump from posting while he remains leader.
So what is this new social site stirring up a frenzy?
WHAT IS GAB?
It was started in 2016 by Andrew Torba and sells itself as a “social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the new free flow of information online”.
With a similar layout to Twitter, it has trending posts popping up in the centre, breaking news on the right and a menu bar on the left. It originally included Reddit-style features where people could up-vote or down-vote posts, but this feature seems to have been removed.
There is a large base of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists known to use the site and who post hate speech on it.
But Gab said on Twitter that public safety is their highest priority and they co-operate with US law enforcement, with the platform’s posts monitored.
“Moderation on Gab is decentralised by way of Gab Groups, which have thousands of user moderators who escalate any illegal activity to our internal moderation and legal teams,” it said on Twitter. “We also have thousands of volunteers and existing Gab customers who keep an eye out for this activity.”
HOW MANY USERS DOES IT HAVE?
In September 2018, the US Securities and Exchange Commission said there were approximately 635,000 users but this had grown to 1.1 million accounts registered in April 2020, according to Fox Business.
Twitter currently has 330 million users.
Gab claimed users had grown by 500,000 on Saturday alone.
It also posted a screenshot showing a 400 per cent increase in visits to almost 26 million.
HOW IS GAB’S WEBSITE COPING WITH NEW USERS?
Well, it’s actually struggling with its new-found fame. While you can look at Gab’s feed, the website has been slow and at times inaccessible, particularly if trying to sign up for a new account.
Gab, which uses its own servers so it can’t be “banned”, said it was constantly playing a game of catch-up.
“We keep adding more servers and at like 5am we get the site stable, then millions of new people come through the door in the morning and we start all over again. Scaling up as fast as we can! Patience,” the company tweeted.
IS TRUMP ON GAB?
It hasn’t been confirmed. He alluded to going elsewhere after his ban from the major social media sites.
In a tweet later removed, Mr Trump said: “We have been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future. We will not be SILENCED!”
WHERE HAS THE PLATFORM BEEN BANNED?
The list is long from payment portals to hosting sites.
It was removed from the Google Play Store in 2017 for violating its hate speech policy and rejected from Apple’s App Store.
It was dropped by its original domain host, Go Daddy, in 2018 after it was linked to the gunmen accused of killing 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
PayPal, cryptocurrency services Bitpay and Coinbase, online store builder Square and Stripe, which offers online payment processing, are all sites that have blocked Gab.
On the crowd-funding side, Startengine and Patreon have prohibited it.
Twitter won’t let Gab advertise on its website.
While on the hosting side Amazon, Microsoft’s Azure, cloud computing platforms Joyent and Backblaze have also banned Gab from using them.
WHO IS THE GAB FOUNDER?
The 30-year-old created an advertising company from home called Kuhcoon (now known as Automate Ads) but when his start-up was picked up for a Silicon Valley incubator, he felt out of place in the tech centre.
Politically conservative and a Trump supporter, Mr Torba said he was motivated to create Gab after reports that social media companies could favour posts and topic discussions from liberal users.
“I didn’t set out to build a ‘conservative social network’ by any means, but I felt that it was time for a conservative leader to step up and to provide a forum where anybody can come and speak freely without fear of censorship,” he told the Washington Post in 2016.
But in 2019, Mr Torba admitted that Gab has a right-wing slant.
“Any online community that is explicitly pro-free speech will inevitably become right-leaning,” he told VICE News. “This is because in the free market of ideas right-leaning ideas win. Which is why we see these left-wing tech companies censoring. No one is buying their progressive, globalist bulls**t anymore, so it must be force-fed down the throats of users and dissent must be stamped out with the iron fist of censorship.”
A devout Christian, Mr Torba banned porn from the platform in 2019.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR GAB?
Look out Apple, it’s moving into phones. Gab claims to be releasing its own phone and urges people to “stay tuned for pre-order information”.
There’s also a video content platform with Gab TV recently launching, which it said is its YouTube alternative.
Hundreds of engineers who also reached out to work for Gab, it claimed on Twitter, with the company planning to review applications soon.
WHAT ABOUT THAT SOCIAL MEDIA SITE PARLER?
Also popular with the far right and favoured by Trump supporters, it was the most downloaded app in the US on the second weekend in November when Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election.
Founded in 2018 and advertising itself as “unbiased social media”, it operated like a hybrid of Twitter and Instagram.
But now Parler has found itself homeless, as Apple, Google and Amazon have kicked it off its platforms in the space of 24 hours.
Apple had demanded a detailed moderation plan within 24 hours, after complaints it was being used for illegal activities, but then removed its app when adequate measures weren’t taken.
“Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety,” it said.
Parler CEO John Matze addressed Apple’s ban and said he “won’t cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech”.
“Standards not applied to Twitter, Facebook or even Apple themselves apply to Parler,” he said.