“Gab” has more fragile people than Twitter, Facebook and Reddit combined, but what it stands for is what we need more than ever.
Freedom of speech gave us philosophy, medicine, abolished slavery, gave women the right to vote, opened borders and many more. Make no mistake that it is far more important than most give it credit for.
After all the hubbub about #Gab recently, I finally caved and decided to give it a look. I preface this post by stating that I am definitely a strong advocate of 'freedom of speech' and I absolutely abhor viewpoints of any kind that condemn what can only be described as 'thought crimes'. This author understands well that there is a serious difference between hate speech and freedom of speech, though this author also knows very well what a world without 'free speech' looks like.
Now that we have that out of the way, I'll explain what I knew about Gab before having a look the other day. There's a very short answer here and it is; basically nothing. I knew only that Gab came under a lot of controversy and that it was a somewhat less moderated kind of #Twitter. That's all the information I knew.
Doing a quick search told me that Gab has had to move to a type of #Mastodon instance in the '#fediverse' due to non-stop attempts at trying to cripple the platform in literally every way imaginable 1, 2, 3.
I was also really sad to hear that F-Droid also recently banned Gab from its repo, which I personally find goes entirely against the fundamentals of 'Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)'. If you aren't aware of the fundamentals of FOSS, here is a link but for the very lazy of you, just see Freedom 0:
Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
Which would obviously include allowing the installation of an app [Gab] that has literally the same policy. And yet F-Droid banned the app...
In fact, I'll be honest here, even though I certainly don't like 'Gab' at all, I was really quite angry that F-Droid's developer broke what has been a long and consistent neutrality to take a stance on what is literally nothing but a politically charged topic and has absolutely nothing to do with #FOSS at all. This only further shows that these days there really is almost no barrier between “feelings” and literally everything else in the world and given that F-Droid has no advertisers or investors they could lose by not banning [the Gab app] and that F-Droid should exist only to promote FOSS, taking a stance like this absolutely annihilates their credibility in my eyes. The founder of Gab has said though that he will fork F-Droid and work to make the original obsolete and I look forward to watching that one unfold.
Additional reading: Here is a very interesting discussion on 'Hacker News' about F-Droid banning Gab. Truly an incredibly controversial topic with many for, and many against the ban. One comment I liked in particular was:
Wait, Gab is banned but 4chan related apps are fine? What the hell??
Anyway back to the topic. Even after Gab moved to Mastodon, they have in almost every single sense been banned from view by anyone in other fediverses 1, 2, 3. One of the most fundamental part of the fediverse is that despite being in one, depending on your connections you can still see what is written from users in another. For Gab however, this is not possible unless you register directly on the Gab instance.
My personal favourite, the developer of Mastodon who made the entire thing open-source, back-flipping on the 'open' part and calling for a mass censorship, and getting mad that Gab forked their OPEN SOURCE app.
“So Gab has decided that their own code that they spent $5M of investor money developing is so unsalvageably bad that they're going to use Mastodon's code instead, with the added bonus of leeching off of our apps (with Gab apps being banned from app stores)
This is an early warning to fellow admins to be vigilant and domain-block them on sight, when/if they appear (unconfirmed whether they intend to federate), and to app devs to consider if blocking Gab's domains from their app is necessary”. – Mastodon Founder
Really though, imagine making what you boast is a free and open platform that can be forked by anyone and when a group want to use it for literally its intended purpose. You throw a tantrum, call for censorship and not only that but call their behaviour 'leeching'? Why did you make Mastrodon open source then? The problem isn't with Gab's previous code but with the fact that hosting it on a centralized platform has failed time and time again. I can't be the only one here that finds all of this very hypocritical.
Anyway. Now that you have an idea of how hard life has been for Gab and its founder. Speaking completely objectively here, we can finally tackle the question of “Is all this censorship, sabotage, and banhammer swinging really necessary?” Is Gab seriously that bad? Could a platform that advocates for 'free speech' really be such a massive threat to the comfort and safety of so many that all of this behaviour is actually justified?
The answer is absolutely not. In my mind Gab is literally a non-issue. It's a social network full of some of the most fragile people I've ever seen. What exists on Gab is really nothing but a multitude of frustrated rants from people who until the platform came along had really nowhere else to complain. Gab users fall under the category of basically wanting a place to complain about the the things on their mind, without the issue of having unpopular and conflicting viewpoints that would cause them drama anywhere else. Personally I think this is a perfectly normal, albeit unhealthy (that doesn't – not make it normal though) need. The difference here is that Gab is generally a place used by people who have severely unhealthy habits and lifestyles. Those of which affect their lives negatively and of course can certainly affect others in a similar way.
The problem is that we need platforms like Gab. Without them we are confined to Twitter, Reddit, Youtube and Facebook et cetera, all of which have absolutely no clear content policy and constantly backflip by banning or not banning users for things both against (and not against) their policies. My personal least favourite platform is Twitch which absolutely WILL NOT follow their own content policy by banning users that consistently break their policies time and time again, and wholly allows popular users who bring in a lot of income to the platform, to continue to break rules and push boundaries on a regular basis just because money (read: greed). None of these platforms can be trusted any more than Gab to be a racism, sexism, hate, aka 'garbage free' environment, least of all one that follows their own policies/rules. On the contrary, hundreds of millions more people use these platforms than those who use Gab and the web is littered with thousands of examples of egregious behaviour from users on other platforms, let alone from the platforms (and their staff) themselves.
Having said all that, I don't see why Gab gets so much hate. I think it all stems back to the guy who shot up a synagogue in the US right after posting on the platform. But how many people have committed a similar act of terrorism right after using another platform? For crying out loud the New Zealand mosque mass shooter streamed his entire horrible act live on Facebook!
Whilst I don't support racism, sexism, you name it, of any kind. I certainly don't see what all the fuss is about and if anything it seems that Gab has sadly just become the poster-child piñata for a solid bashing by anyone who has their feelings easily hurt. All of the bans from corporations show just how capitalist the state of the world is and how much power entities like Google, Facebook, Paypal, the list goes on, have on anyone who dares to hold themselves to their own merit.
I pity Gab and I pity the users on Gab, but I pity even more those who are afraid of free speech and those who are completely blind to the necessity of free speech. The real threat are those who would have us thrown in prison, or worse, simply for 'thinking' in a way that does not align with them. It's such a shame that the Dark Web predominantly became a place to engage in highly illegal and unscrupulous behaviour because the world needs a free and open internet now more than ever...