Sunday, October 28, 2018

Gab, an alternative microblogging platform, apparently shut down by hosting provider after Pittsburgh incident

During the afternoon Sunday, news has flowed in that the alternate speech platform Gab is being denied hosting from its main provider Joyent, after Paypal and Stripe had also cut them off.  The actions took place after suspect Robert Bowers had written an inflammatory post on Gab warning that he was going to respond to immigration in a violent way,  The Daily Beast has a brief story here.   Gab says it is working on finding another provider and provided all records of Bowers’s activity to law enforcement.  Gab's Medium page has been suspended (I just checked). 

Off the bat, it’s apparent that no social media provider could prevent a specific post like that.  Other visitors could have called law enforcement.

However Gab has produced cutoff notices that suggest their terms of service required them to monitor for hate speech or threats and had failed to do so.

Gab had also had difficulties with Microsoft in August (Verge story

Some news accounts, like on the UK independent, indeed give graphic accounts of some of Gab's users. 

Various stories portray Gab as a platform favored by the “alt-right”.  That would be because the Austin TX company says it will not suspend users or censor them for speech.  Some high-profile people said to be associated with white supremacy have accounts.  But I know of libertarian speakers who prefer Gab because they fear censorship on Twitter for much more moderate statements for circumstantial or “implicit content” or "strawman" reasons. I do not have an account with Gab. Unlike Twitter, you cannot see public content on Gab without setting up an account. 
Tim Pool has a strongly worded video today in which he explains that Gab had tried to create a competitive platform where censorship would be less likely.  But he doesn’t believe that the current political climate, with pressure now on web hosts, allows this to be done.

My comment to this Timcast video is here.  Pool says that analysis of Gab v. Twitter shows that the percentage of posts that would be "hate speech" are pretty close and comparable. 
On my own blogs, the only user generated content is comments.  These are monitored automatically for spam.  The remaining volume is quite small so, yes, I can monitor them for content issues. 
Let me add, I don’t report content I find online for censorship (unless it is fraudulent and would involve me).  On a few occasions (all before 2006) I have reported emails sent to me to authorities for suspected criminal activity. I do not publish classified information if it arrives (it may have on one or two occasions).

Update: Oct. 29

Kevin Roose of the New York Times also reports that Godaddy pulled domain name registration. But the site does resolve Monday morning to a site that says Gab is under attack. 

The Roose piece also makes the interesting point that tech companies fear that if their platforms allow everything, in time the content will shift to the most outrageous and extreme and become unusable for more civil customers. 

The Washington Post (Ian Shapira et al) has a similar story, calling Gab a de facto "white supremacist sanctuary". 

Vox "explains" Gab pretty well in an article by Jane Coaston.  But the objection to Gab seems to center on what "groups" it attracts, not so much on actual individual user behavior.  We're back to the idea of coordination inside groups and which groups should be allowed to organize -- which because of world history, is very difficult to face. 

Here is Gab's tweet.  I'm a little confused:  it refers to Joyent as the new hosting provider? Was Godaddy the provider before??  Is the NYTimes completely correct on the facts on how it has been hosted?  Gab also has the "share this everywhere" tweet promising to return. 

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