The "free speech" platform where the Pittsburgh shooter felt comfortable enough to share his intention to murder Jews came back online Sunday night. And it's already filled back up with anti-semitism.
After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, in which a man named Robert Bowers murdered 11 people for being Jewish during Shabbat services, GoDaddy ended its domain registrar services for the social platform Gab.
Gab bills itself as a "free speech" platform, which means that it is a favored platform of white supremacists, where they can freely spew their anti-semitic, racist, and misogynistic hate.
On Gab, Bowers shared his plans for the massacre, declaring "screw your optics, I'm going in." This prompted GoDaddy, PayPal, and other platforms that enabled the site's existence, to also end support.
The de-platforming was short-lived. Gab returned to the internet Sunday after it secured domain registrar services from the Seattle company Epik, the Seattle Times reported.
“I do believe the guys that are on the site are vigilant,” Epik founder and CEO Rob Monster told the Seattle Times. The paper also wrote that Monster "speculated that some of the 'garbage' on Gab may be from people trying to embarrass the company."
But the "embarrassing" content was front and center upon Gab's return.
Gab founder Andrew Torba posted “We want to see nothing but positivity, peace, and love" when the site came back online.
Another user reportedly responded “Fuck that, name the Jews who are trying to shut us down.”
Gab deleted the comment. But users continued to post anti-semitic content in the few hours that it's been back online, many focusing on blaming "the Jews" for shutting down Gab.
Celebrating his site's return today, Gab CEO Andrew Torba told users: “We want to see nothing but positivity, peace, and love.”
The response from a user named HateN*****s (censorship is mine): “Fuck that, name the Jews who are trying to shut us down.”http://t.co/FCLbOsKHJq
— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) November 5, 2018
The return has not been entirely smooth. Twitter user Michael Hayden noted that the site experienced glitches after posts from a known neo-Nazi went viral.
Low rent online hate speech dump @getongab is nominally back online but it is barely functional. Cantwell got in a typical post targeting Jews and then all hell broke loose and everything went blank. Also my DM history has been totally wiped: pic.twitter.com/wVqCTLj5RP
— Michael Edison Hayden 🐆 (@MichaelEHayden) November 4, 2018
The existence and subsequent de-platforming of Gab is a case study for the trouble with enabling "free speech" online. Gab reportedly now claims that it prohibits outright calls for violence. But in the short time that Gab has been back online, its users demonstrate that calls for violence go hand in hand with "free" hate speech — speech that dehumanizes historic targets of violence, aids in the proliferation of conspiracy theories, and emboldens the angry to find one another, and act.