Date
19 November 2018
Mourners at a memorial service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; inset: the US flag flies at half staff at the White House in Washington on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Mourners at a memorial service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; inset: the US flag flies at half staff at the White House in Washington on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Gab.com goes offline after 11 dead in Pittsburgh attack

Gab.com, the website where the suspected Pittsburg synagogue gunman posted anti-Semitic views, said it was offline for a period of time after being asked by its domain provider to move to another registrar.

The move comes after GoDaddy Inc. asked Gab to change the domain, while PayPal Holdings Inc., Stripe Inc. and Joynet Inc. blocked the website.

“We have informed Gab.com that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another registrar,” a spokesman for GoDaddy said, adding the site violated its terms of service and hosted content that “promotes and encourages violence against people.”

The 46-year-old suspect Robert Bowers in the shooting incident has been charged with murdering 11 people on Saturday in the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States. Hours earlier, he posted on Gab.com, saying a non-profit that helps Jewish refugees relocate to the country was helping to kill “my people”.

“Gab.com is under attack. We have been systematically no-platformed by App Stores, multiple hosting providers, and several payment processors,” the website said, adding that it was working around the clock to get Gab.com back online.

PayPal Holdings Inc. banned the website from using its money-sending services on Saturday. Gab said on Saturday it received notice it would be blocked by another payments website, Stripe Inc., and had switched to a new web-hosting service after Joyent Inc. warned it would cut off the website.

Gab did not say who the new web host was.

“Working around the clock to see to it that Gab.com stays online,” the company posted on Twitter on Sunday. “FREE SPEECH WILL ALWAYS WIN.”

Founded in 2016 by conservative Andrew Torba, Gab bills itself as the “free speech” alternative to Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. and has become a popular place to post content unwelcome or prohibited on other platforms.

Bowers, 46, joined the site in January.

In Pittsburgh, some 2,500 people gathered on Sunday at a memorial service for the 11 Jewish worshipers slain in their Pittsburgh synagogue during Sabbath prayers.

“This is the darkest hour in our city’s history,” Mayor Bill Peduto declared. “But here’s another thing about Pittsburgh. We are resilient. We will work together as one. We will defeat hate with love. We will be a city of compassion and we will be welcoming to all people,” he said to cheers.

The auditorium of the Soldiers and Sailors Hall, a venue that seats more than 2,300, was filled to capacity with hundreds more people gathered outside the building.

The names of the dead were released hours earlier. They included David Rosenthal, 54; his brother Cecil Rosenthal, 59; Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife Bernice Simon, 84; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69. The eldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97.

She was among five of the slain who lived in Squirrel Hill, a quiet, leafy district with a large Jewish population. The community also was home to the late Fred Rogers, whose long-running children’s television show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” featured lessons on friendship and kindness.

Right-wing users

Among the notable of Gab are right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, as well as media personalities Alex Jones and Carl Benjamin.

The free website charges for access to additional features and also raises money on the crowdfunding website StartEngine.

Torba did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Utsav Sanduja, Gab’s former chief operating officer, said the company and its mission will survive “guilt by association” and could do more fundraising through cryptocurrencies in order to bypass tech companies.

“We created Gab for the purpose of letting off steam not to kill. That was not our intention,” he said.

In earlier statements, the website said it was it was cooperating with law enforcement authorities and described the moves by PayPal and others as acts of “direct collusion between big tech giants”. It also called on US President Donald Trump to act.

PayPal declined to comment on Sunday beyond an earlier statement that the company takes immediate action when “a site is allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance”.

Joyent could not immediately be reached, and Stripe declined to comment on individual users.

Sanduja did say that there could be room for Gab to improve.

“The mission should not change, but certainly there does need to be better checks and balances in place,” he said.

Sanduja said he left his role at the website in June after Gab users threatened his life and that of his wife, who works at a synagogue.

Comments on Gab forum 

On Sunday, Gab’s forum lit up with comments about the Pittsburgh attack. One user celebrated Gab being banned by PayPal while another user responded, “You are going to get shot at ur local synagogue.” Another posted, “I WAS RIGHT, THEY FAKED THE SYNAGOGUE SHOOTING.”

Gab raised US$1 million through crowdfunding last year, but recorded a loss of US$201,704, according to a document filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Microsoft Corp. said in an emailed statement that it terminated Gab’s accounts on its Azure cloud computing platform last month.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc.’s mobile app stores previously blocked Gab, cutting off a crucial source of access to new users.

Facebook’s archive of ads that it considers political in nature shows Gab has run only one such ad since May. It paid less than US$100 for that ad and generated 1,000 to 5,000 views last month, according to the archive.

The company had no active ad campaigns on Facebook or Twitter as of Saturday, according to those companies’ ad transparency databases. Gab’s account on Twitter warned users on Saturday to expect that they would be banned from that website and Facebook soon.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company is reviewing Gab’s presence on its website. Twitter declined to comment.

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG

(Updated; last posted at 7:56 a.m.) 

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe