Gab needs to stop marketing itself as a right-leaning haven for nutjobs. It should just present itself as a fun, entertaining social media site that just so happens to not ban people as easily as other sites. One of the things I really dislike about Gab is how difficult it is to find people with interests or even opinions outside the realm of basic bitch AltRight/AltLite/MAGA politics. Ideally, I want a place where I can view entertaining content and discuss topics earnestly but one which doesn’t punish people for PC indiscretions. Sites like Gab should aim to attract with apolitical entertainment, with the idea that people go will go there for that but have to tolerate some uncomfortable political speech as a price. Just like when people watch football or some funny cooking vid on youtube, and they have to sit through the annoying political diatribe or cheesy social justice commercial. Kind of like how youtube has its own shows. They need exclusive non-political (mostly) content, which will draw in ordinary people. The “exclusive” streams and shows which can for there now there are all just Alex Jones style and “MAGA” oriented material. They need things like cooking shows, makeup tutorials and animated series. As it currently stands, Gab’s appeal seems to be along the lines of “Come to our site where you can discuss ‘pizzagate,’ ‘false flags’ and other wild conspiracy theories, free of censorship.” It’s no surprise what kind of demographic that ultimately attracts. As a result, discussion on Gab is dominated by insufferable lunatics and surly cranks. Simply saying “we’re a free speech site and everyone is welcome” isn’t enough. You have to actually offer the kind of content which people from a variety of ideological, non-ideological and social spheres will be interested in.
Of course, I don’t believe Gab is to blame for the fact that one of its users (allegedly a man named Robert Bowers) committed the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. A social media site or forum can’t be expected to be responsible for the offline behavior of one of their users. It simply isn’t their responsibility. There are too many crazy people out there. There have been crimes and violent attacks committed by users of every major social media site.
However, what is the point of suspending his (or any other perpetrator’s) account after the fact? Just leave it up, otherwise it just looks like you’re trying to conceal what he posted to avoid damage to your reputation. There’s no point in destroying a public record of someone’s posts just because they happened to commit a crime. Twitter and FB do the same thing, and it’s annoying. People are interested in reading the old posts on these kinds of accounts because they offer insight into the person’s mindset and motivations. I’d prefer to read these myself and draw my own conclusions rather than take the word of some media outlet’s second or third hand interpretation.
During a particularly censorious time on Twitter a few years ago, I contemplated using a spare domain name I had obtained for building a small scale social media site called “Wand” (which was intended to fill the void which Gab has since occupied.) Ultimately, I decided the potential for legal liabilities would be a hassle I just wasn’t equipped to deal with. Once you make the decision to start hosting other people’s edgy content and images on your site, there’s a hell of a lot of shit that can go wrong. Maybe, I’m just a tad too misanthropic to be willing to “take one for the team.” I just don’t care about these issues enough.
I’m grateful that Gab exists, but a site which seems designed specifically to attract pond scum has built in experiential limitations.
Brandon Adamson is the author of Skytrain to Nowhere