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USA: Social media site Gab accused of facilitating white supremacist violence after user suspected of killing 11 people in Pittsburgh synagogue

On 27 October 2018, Robert Bowers entered Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and killed 11 people and wounded 6 others. The attack is believed to be the deadliest on the Jewish community in US history, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Prior to the shooting, Bowers had posted numerous messages on social media site Gab expressing hate against Jewish people, migrants, and refugees. 

Soon after the shooting, PayPal banned Gab from using its payment processing. Hours later, Stripe followed suit, as did Joyent, the company that provided cloud-hosting services for the social media site. GoDaddy, the domain name provider, told Gab it had 24 hours to move its domain name to another service, after finding content on the site that promoted violence. According to a New York Times article, in an email interview Gab's chief executive said that while he had not reviewed all of Mr. Bowers’s posts, the company had turned over information about his account to law enforcement agencies and was cooperating with the investigation.

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29 October 2018

Gab statement

Gab has spent the past 48 hours proudly working with the DOJ and FBI to bring justice to an alleged terrorist. Because of the data we provided, they now have plenty of evidence for their case. In the midst of this Gab has been no-platformed by essential internet infrastructure providers at every level... Gab isn’t going anywhere... We have plenty of options, resources, and support. We will exercise every possible avenue to keep Gab online and defend free speech and individual liberty for all people... As we transition to a new hosting provider Gab will be inaccessible for a period of time. We are working around the clock to get Gab.com back online. Thank you and remember to speak freely... Andrew Torba, CEO Gab.com

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29 October 2018

Social media website linked in violence by suspect in Pittsburgh synagogue goes offline

Author: Abby Ohlheiser & Ian Shapira, The Washington Post

"Gab, the white supremacist sanctuary linked to the Pittsburgh suspect, goes offline (for now)," 29 October 2018

There was a blue check mark next to Robert Bowers’s name, meaning that the social media account was verified. His bio said that “jews are the children of satan,” his banner image a clear reference to a white supremacist meme... The account is believed to belong to the same Robert Bowers who is suspected of opening fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people and wounding six others. The profile, which has since been removed, lived on Gab, a social media platform that has become a haven for white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other adherents to extreme ideologies that have found themselves increasingly unwelcome on Twitter and Facebook... Founder Andrew Torba has long said Gab is simply a “free speech” platform for anyone who wants to join, and has responded aggressively to characterizations otherwise.

Medium, the publishing platform, has suspended Gab’s account there, according to Gab. And GoDaddy informed Gabthat they had violated their terms of service, giving them 24 hours to move their domain to another provider. “In response to complaints received over the weekend, GoDaddy investigated and discovered numerous instances of content on the site that both promotes and encourages violence against people,” a GoDaddy spokesperson said in an emailed statement... Gab has positioned itself as a key figure in the right-wing response to online crackdowns of extremist views, and has benefited directly from the white supremacists who flocked to Gab on the promise that their views would not be censored, according to Joan Donovan, the media manipulation and platform accountability research lead at Data and Society, who has followed the site’s growth... Gab “rode the wave of attention to white nationalists after Charlottesville to populate its social media platform,” Donovan said in an interview Sunday. In the wake of the deadly Charlottesville protests in 2017, major companies such as Apple, PayPal and Squarespace began removing white nationalists from their platforms, leaving them with fewer options for making money and hosting their views online.

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30 October 2018

Gab, site where synagogue shooting suspect posted, is suspended

Author: James Doubeck, NPR

The alternative social media network that was reportedly used by the suspect in the deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue is now down. Gab.com is a social network that touts itself as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook to give conservatives a platform for free speech. But it also has been criticized for providing a platform for anti-Semitism and white nationalism... The platform's future is newly in doubt because an account linked to Robert Bowers, the 46-year-old Pittsburgh resident charged in the shootings, wrote on Gab Saturday morning: "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in." HIAS is a Jewish nonprofit that has the goal of helping immigrant refugees. In an interview with NPR, Gab CEO and founder Andrew Torba defended his website and condemned the shooting in Pittsburgh. He said the site has a rule about removing direct threats, but he suggested that Bowers' post didn't sound like a concrete threat... PayPal confirmed to NPR that it had cut off the website from its payment system, and two Web-hosting sites also severed ties with Gab over the weekend. 

... A casual scroll through Gab's message boards while it was up over the weekend revealed plenty of anti-Semitism, racism, Nazism and sexism running through its messages, along with conspiracy theories... As NPR's Alina Selyukh reported last year, "many members of the far right and others who feel their views are stifled by mainstream sites like Twitter and Facebook" have gravitated toward Gab, with its promise of few restrictions on speech... Bowers used anti-Semitic slurs on Gab and called Jews an "infestation" and a "problem," according to the Anti-Defamation League.  

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30 October 2018

Hate crime charges filed in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 dead

Author: Dakin Andone, Jason Hanna, Joe Sterling & Paul P. Murphy, CNN

Federal prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against a Pennsylvania man they say stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue and opened fire, killing 11 people... He made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official... The attack is believed to be the deadliest on the Jewish community in US history, the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement... Bowers is charged with 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder and multiple counts of two hate crimes: obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer, authorities said, citing a sealed criminal complaint. 

... A law enforcement source told CNN that investigators believe an account on Gab, a social media platform, that espoused anti-Semitic views belonged to Bowers... Bowers' anti-Semitic comments also fueled other hate speech he shared on Gab, which has styled itself as an alternative to Twitter and puts nearly no restrictions on content... Bowers also posted photos on his Gab account showing his handgun collection, including multiple magazines and sights... In a statement, Gab disavowed "all acts of terrorism and violence" and said its mission was "to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people." 

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