I find this article difficult to write as I feel that both Vox Day and Andrew Torba are great guys and wish they would bury the hatchet. I have just donated $50 to the Gab lawsuit fund and bought a year’s subscription to Gab Pro. It is a great product. Nonetheless, the current disagreements between Gab, Google and Vox do underline nuanced issues of free speech and regulation that the new right and alt-tech will need to address if they intend to succeed. Vox has some points that are simply correct and others well worth thinking about. The public row between Vox and Andrew is unseemly.
Gab.ai’s raison d’être was created by the action (and inaction) of a number of large technology companies. Back in the early days of the internet, for a growing company like Google or Twitter, the last thing they wanted to do was upset customers by controlling or censoring their free speech. Nor did they want to incur the costs of paying people to deal with complaints. So in the old days they left it to the courts. If a court ruled that something was illegal, then most companies would take it down even if they had immunity under US law (for example s230 CDA).
The world moved on. The internet grew and the companies grew and suddenly the internet was not just for a small minority of socially inadept experts but for everyday life. As a result, clamour in the US for regulation grew. At the same time, these expanding companies found themselves trading in the European Union, which has very different laws. European Courts held Google was liable under the Data Protection Directive for damaging search results, meaning California based Google could be sued out of the jurisdiction in the UK.
At the same time, Democratic lawmakers like Katherine Clarke were calling for similar laws in the United States. Advertisers began to complain. There were legitimate concerns and legitimate needs for regulation. Society has always regulated speech, even under the 1st Amendment and the internet was always a wild west due to its newness.
Things started to go wrong when the authoritarian left decided to control speech as a whole, defining illegitimate speech as that which disagrees with theirs. Users started to be banned for Twitter just for offending the wrong person, whilst paedophiles and terrorists often seemed to go unpunished. Popular gay political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was arbitrarily banned from Twitter after his marginal contributions to a heated argument with a mediocre actress. Lauren Southern was banned from Patreon whilst no action was taken against paedophile money launderers and cannibalism fetishists until I complained to the card networks and banks (video coming soon on MHN).
Not just the far right, but mainstream Conservatives began to wake up to the fact that big tech social media has terrifying power, no regulation and was under the sway of left wing idealogues. Gab.ai was formed to support free speech for all, and it is good.
The so-called Social Justice Warriors are a small minority of embittered, frequently deformed and / or obese, under-achievers who have bought into the pernicious lie that their failures are the fault of someone else. The essentials of the ‘blame someone else’ scam have remained unchanged for centuries, requiring only some aggrieved marks, a nebulous villain and some tangible ‘collaborators’ as scapegoats. In olden times people were encouraged to blame adverse events on evil spirits, and burn witches as their mortal helpers. This blog is named after Matthew Hopkins, a historical English witch hunter who literally charged villagers by the witch, receiving a fee for each witch found and burnt.
In more modern times the villain has varied. Hitler blamed an international Jewish conspiracy of bankers for the distress of Germany after World War I. The tangible collaborators he blamed were the Jews and Germans made him Chancellor. As a result, the world nearly drowned in blood. The current crop of SJWs blame the ‘Kyriarchy’, which is a sort of combination final form of the Patriarchy, the Capitalists, Heterosexuals (scholarly shoe0nhead video here). The Kyriarchy is responsible for everything bad, from being passed over for promotion to desired sexual partners being uninterested. This is disruptive to business and so as a general rule bosses dislike SJWs and everything associated with them.
In fact, no one likes the SJWs, including other SJWs (who war with each other incessantly)
However, political movements provide a convenient cover and scapegoat for companies that simply want to de-risk by eliminating controversy and so unlikeable idealogues like Randi Harper and Zoe Quinn found themselves briefly feted as companies sought for excuses to remove advertiser and investor unfriendly groups.
Lots of people thought of creating a Twitter competitor with freer speech but Andrew Torba and Gab were first to market. That is a commendable achievement but it is also only the first of many complex battles. Right now, Gab claims to have 200K + users. Twitter claims to have 328 million + users. Right now Gab has less than 1% the number of users Twitter has. In fact Gab has less than 0.1% the users Twitter has. At first, most of the people who used the site had similar views but as it grows – if it grows, by virtue of more people there will be more factions.
Another issue is that Gab is presently a company based in the US and trading mostly in Texas. If Gab truly wishes to compete with Twitter, what happens when it has a significant presence in the EU and EU law can be enforced against its assets there or indirectly via customers and payment processors? EU law is far less unfriendly to free speech than many allege but even so Gab’s main selling point will be under constant pressure and battles will need to be chosen carefully.
There are serious issues of morality and pragmatism. Not all speech, as Vox Day says, is legal or valid and not everyone can afford libel lawyers. Do we really expect (for example) impoverished, vulnerable people to sue before Gab will take action over obvious libel? If a teenage girl’s boyfriend defames her saying she has AIDS must we really wait for her to issue a defamation lawsuit? The issues cannot be ignored.
The present drama involving Vox Day and Andrew Torba may seem exciting, but it is chicken feed. As I said above, Gab presently has less than 0.1% of Twitter’s user base. What happens when it hits 1% (that is 3.28 million people)? 10% (32.8 million people)? Complaints of defamation and harassment will not go away, nor even increase linearly. As the service membership diversifies they will increase exponentially. A diverse membership means more fights.
Another issue is the targeting of donors and allies – an obvious tactic for far left-wing sabotoeurs and Antifa types. If Gab’s business model depends on subscribers (who have convenient badges) and donors, why not harass them using the service? And why would we not give our allies preferential treatment. Principle is all very well, but it does not pay the bills. I supported Gab for a right-wing friendly service. I do not expect Andrew to die on the hill of free speech for stalkers and lunatics. I would like Vox and Andrew to stop targeting each other.
I would like Vox to stop discouraging donation to Gab and I would like Andrew to think carefully and take action over harassment and defamation from unprofitable users. Vox is wrong that Gab does not moderate but I believe he is right that Gab’s present policies need adjustment. The fight for free speech has enough enemies without its supporters fighting amongst themselves.