Week after Pittsburgh massacre, far-right hate platform is back online

Gab, frequented by synagogue shooter Robert Bowers, once again being used by neo-Nazis and white nationalists, having been shunned by most domain providers

A woman visits a makeshift memorial  outside Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, to the 11 people killed there during worship services, seen here on October 31, 2018. (Gene J. Puskar/ AP)
A woman visits a makeshift memorial outside Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, to the 11 people killed there during worship services, seen here on October 31, 2018. (Gene J. Puskar/ AP)

A website popular with racists that was used by the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter is back online, less than a week after the Pennsylvania massacre saw the Gab online community shut down.

Two days after the October 27 murders at the Tree of Life synagogue, Gab said on Twitter that the site was taken down, but was looking to return with a new host.

By Sunday, it was back, thanks to Seattle-based domain provider Epik, which agreed to host the site.

In a triumphant tweet, Gab said it was growing “stronger by the hour.”

Among those back to posting hate speech on the speech was white supremacist Chris Cantwell, who was made famous by a documentary on the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, unrest.

“Hey Jews! We’re back on Gab now,” he wrote, according to Talking Points Memo. “Pretty soon the average citizen is going to figure out that we wouldn’t be having these problems in your absence.”

Robert Bowers, the gunman charged in the deaths of 11 Jews, frequented the network and apparently posted on it moments before carrying out the massacre.

This image shows a portion of an archived webpage from the social media website Gab, with a posting by Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers, October 27, 2018. (AP)

The vast majority of messages posted by Bowers were anti-Semitic in nature, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Among other things, he wrote that “Jews are the children of satan,” and referred to “kike infestation,” and “filthy EVIL jews.”

His photo showed the number 1488, a neo-Nazi hate symbol that references a white supremacist slogan called “14 words” and 88, which is code for “Heil Hitler.”

Created two years ago as a haven for far-rightists, who felt they were being targeted on mainstream platforms, Gab quickly rose in popularity. But the site was not just home to ideological discussions. Critics say threats of violence and virulent hatred are a common theme of those posting to it.

Gab was founded by Torba in August 2016, as a response against what he saw as censorship of right-wing users by some social media platforms. Often, these users were kicked off platforms for using racist or anti-Semitic language, or harassing individuals.

Defending the decision to host Gab, Epik CEO Robert Monster said he believed in founder Andrew Torba’s vision of avoiding censorship.

“Although, I did not take the decision lightly to accept this domain registration, I look forward to partnering with a young, and once brash, CEO, who is courageously doing something that looks useful,” he wrote.

Among those who have found a home on Gab is Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart News provocateur, who was booted from Twitter after urging his followers to harass the African-American comedian Leslie Jones, and Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi site, The Daily Stormer.

Apple and Google have refused to offer Gab in their app stores, due to concerns about hate speech.

When it was shut down, visitors to the site saw a message from Torba, in which he said that he has been providing information to the Justice Department and FBI about “an alleged terrorist.”

“In the midst of this Gab has been no-platformed by essential internet infrastructure providers at every level,” the message reads. “We are the most censored, smeared, and no-platformed startup in history, which means we are a threat to the media and to the Silicon Valley Oligarchy.”

The new Gab logo will feature a dove in honor of the Tree of Life victims and their families, according to Torba.

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