SWAT police officers respond after a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.Reuters
The man who allegedly opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning, killing 10 and injuring a dozen, was reportedly a frequent poster on Gab, a relatively new social network that has attracted many from the far-right fringe.
Robert Bowers, the suspected shooter, reportedly joined Gab at the beginning of this year, using it to post a series of anti-Semitic messages and redistribute many more from other users. Immediately before he allegedly attacked the synagogue, Bowers took aim at HIAS, a Jewish organization that helps refugees.
“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he wrote, according to an archive of his Gab posts. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.
Gab, which bills itself as the free-speech alternative to Facebook and Twitter, has become a haven for far-right extremists. The site does not police hate speech, instead encouraging users to take advantage of its tools to filter out posts they find offensive.
Here’s what we know about Gab:
The site was cofounded by Andrew Torba.
Torba previously cofounded AutomateAds.com, previously known as Kuhcoon, a social media advertising company that had been backed by Y Combinator. Rival AdHawk purchased AutomateAds last year.
Torba founded Gab with Ekrem Büyükkaya, with whom he’d worked at AutomateAds.com.
Torba launched Gab as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, which has drawn the ire of some on the far right for banning people like Milo Yiannopoulos.Getty
Torba told BuzzFeed News he had been frustrated with the way “left leaning Big Social” sites were filtering posts, feeling like they weren’t qualified to judge what was news or harassment.
“It didn’t feel right to me, and I wanted to change it, and give people something that would be fair and just,” he told BuzzFeed News.
Torba touts Gab for its commitment to free speech.
One of many antisemitic posts that can be easily found on Gab.Gab
Gab’s guidelines prohibit users from posting certain kinds of things, such as threats of violence, illegal pornography, and other users’ private information, without their consent. But it generally doesn’t bar posts that many might consider abusive or hateful. Instead, it offers features that allow users to filter out offensive posts.
The site quickly became a popular hangout for white supremacists.
Despite being kicked off of Twitter and other online services, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones retains an active presence on Gab.Gab
Gab has an open-door policy for far-right figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones, who have been kicked off of Twitter and other tech platforms.
Although the site purports to be open to anyone who shares “in the common ideals of Western values, individual liberty, and the free exchange and flow of information,” it’s most frequently populated by far-right ideologies.
The service is relatively small.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, which remains the world’s biggest social network.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
As of the beginning of September, Gab had 635,000 registered users, according to a document it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s up from just 394,000 in March, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the social-media giants.
By comparison, Twitter has some 326 million monthly active users, including 67 million in the US, and Facebook has some 2.2 billion users a month around the world, including 185 million in the US and Canada.