As regular readers will know, I joined the Gab social network almost as soon as it was founded back in 2016. It attracted me for one very simple reason: I believe that free speech means exactly what it says - FREE speech. Any restriction on what one can say, or where or when one can say it, or about whom one may speak, is by definition a restriction of (if not a contradiction to) the right of free speech.
From the start, Gab undertook to support free speech with as few restrictions as possible. With the exception of illegal activities and pornography (which pose legal complications as well as moral and ethical ones), it's done its best to adhere to that principle - unlike Facebook, Twitter et. al., who censor based on political motives and criteria. Yes, that means Gab does, indeed, provide a discussion space for all views, including those abhorrent to me and to most of civilized society. Examples of pro-Nazi, anti-semitic and other propaganda abound there. However, when challenged about them, Gab's response is that it's up to the individual user to police their own feed.
I do that almost daily. If I find that sort of comment by any member, I can (and do) block them at once, so that I never have to see their claptrap nonsense again. I don't rely on anyone else, much less the network administrators, to do it for me. If I want the right of free speech, I have to concede that right to others, whether or not I agree with them - but that doesn't mean they have the right to force me to listen to them, and vice versa. I simply shut them out. I think that's a mature way to handle such nonsense, and I wish more people would adopt it, instead of screaming for someone else (i.e. the administrators) to do it for them. Once that happens, the platform - any platform - is de facto in default of free speech, and that freedom becomes licensed rather than unfettered.
Opponents of free speech, and supporters of politically-motivated censorship, are, of course, vehemently opposed to such freedom. They attack it at every turn, with the result that Gab has gained an undeserved reputation as a "far-right extremist" network. It isn't, by definition. It gives those of that ilk the same right of free speech as it gives to anyone else - including, for example, those of a far-left extremist persuasion. Free speech is free speech. Restrict one part of it, and you by definition restrict all parts of it.
A recent underhanded attack against Gab drives home just how much the opponents of free speech will ignore ethics and morality in their determination to overrule its supporters. I'll let Gab tell the story.
At 8:38pm on Wednesday December 9th Gab received an email from Walden Macht & Haran LLP notifying us of a Gab account, @EnemiesOfThePeople, that was in breach of our Terms of Service.
The Gab account was created just a few days ago and featured the personal addresses, photos, and more of election and government officials, which is against our terms of service. The account also made direct threats of violence towards these individuals, which is against the law as well as our terms of service.
This type of content has no place on Gab and we have a longstanding history of zero tolerance for illegal behavior. At Gab we believe that free speech and open discussion are the best ways to solve problems and disagreements, not violence.
Within minutes of receiving the email alerting us to the existence of this account we took immediate action by backing up the account information for law enforcement and then terminating the account from our service.
We took it one step further by alerting the Gab community to this behavior and noted that our community members should report this type of illegal activity to our moderation team immediately if they come across it.
At 9:34pm, less than an hour after being alerted to the existence of this account, our attorney replied to Walden Macht & Haran LLP to let them know that we took immediate action to terminate the account.
At 3:49pm Thursday afternoon Reuters published an article covering this story and neglected to reach out to Gab for comment before publication. In the story Reuters falsely claimed that the account remained active on Gab even though it had been suspended within minutes of it being brought to our attention the night before.
There's more at the link, including Gab's response to Reuters questioning why it had not approached Gab for comment.
The sequence and timing of events (including the fact that the initial complaint came from a lawyer's office, rather than a "regular" user) tend to confirm that the whole thing was an anti-Gab setup from start to finish. It was designed to portray Gab in the worst possible light. It's far from the first time that's been tried. It's a well-known tactic. However, you'll never read Gab's side of the story in the mainstream media. That's almost always suppressed or ignored. You'll only read the "Muh racist!" or "Muh Nazi!" or "Muh terrorist!" slant.
I'd like to use this example to encourage my readers to question anything and everything reported in the mainstream media. If they claim X, one should suspect that X may not be the case, in whole or in part. Examples:
- "Biden won the election, and any suggestion to the contrary is false!" Well, there are plenty of suggestions to the contrary, and plenty of grounds on which to base them - but the mainstream media persist in ignoring them.
- "This/that/the other X is racist!" Who says? Define racism. What do you mean by it? Is your definition universally valid, or partisan and biased? How does X fit those criteria? Are they sound, universally valid criteria, or partisan political perspectives that happen to fit a given agenda?
- "The Texas complaint to the Supreme Court is without merit!" Again, who says? On what grounds do you say that? Have you answered the very specific legal points raised by Texas, or are you ignoring those "inconvenient truths" and responding to a "straw man" argument of your own invention?
There are many other examples one could offer, but those will do for a start.
As far as Gab is concerned: don't believe the leftist, progressive "party line" that the site itself is neo-Nazi or racist. Sure, there are individuals of those persuasions on Gab, just as there are those who are not (including yours truly). I know what real neo-Nazis and racists are like. I've even exchanged gunfire with them, which is a lot more than most progressives in the United States can say! I wrote about that extensively some years ago, and provided video evidence. I continue to oppose them on Gab, just as I did in another country years ago. I see no reason to blame the social network for the beliefs and/or activities of some of its members. They have the same right to free speech that I do, and I'll defend that right against all comers - because if it's denied to them, it can be denied to me, too.
Free speech means precisely and exactly what it says. Any attempt to deny it to one group or individual means that it can be denied to all groups or individuals. It's a civil right that must be defended, both on behalf of and against all special interests, perspectives and pressure groups. I'm grateful to Gab for doing so, to the best of its ability.