If the First Amendment is your thing, there’s a new space on the internet just for you. Gab.ai, which only launched under a month ago, has caught the attention of thousands of right-leaning users, with 12,000 registered and 42,000 waitlisted for the site, which promises almost total freedom of speech to its users.
Founded by Andrew Torba, an open Trump supporter, the site follows the coattails of Facebook and Twitter’s recent battles with user censorship, including perhaps most notably, Twitter’s banishment of controversial conservative Internet personality Milo Yiannopoulos for his harassment campaign against actor Leslie Jones.
Torba sees the alternative to sites like Twitter and Facebook, and while it has a long, long way to go, Gab.ai has garnered “more than 2.7 million pageviews on 240,000 posts, with people spending an average of 12 minutes on the site each time they log in,” according to Buzzfeed News.
The site has the basic functionality to follow other users, and, like Reddit, features an upvote and downvote system on posts that appear in their feed. The most upvoted posts appear in a popular, or trending tab.
The creators’ beliefs regarding the First Amendment aren’t tucked away in a privacy or site policies section. Rather, the home page flaunts a quote from British Indian novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie:
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
While the site’s initial popularity is impressive, the potential is most likely short-lived, following the life cycle of social networks like Ello or Preach, which faded over time.
Torba expressed to BuzzFeed News his frustration with current social networks like Facebook and Twitter and their ability to determine right from wrong, and moderate content for their users. This, he said, was a large factor behind the creation of Gab.
“What makes the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly qualified to tell us what is ‘news’ and what is ‘trending’ and to define what ‘harassment’ means?” he said. “It didn’t feel right to me, and I wanted to change it, and give people something that would be fair and just.”
While there are some limits to freedom of speech on the site — threats of violence, illegal pornography, or the release of personal information without consent — Gab aims to put the onus on users to handle harassment.
Through keyword filtering, user muting, and the ability to only see content from verified users (the process involves presenting a valid form of ID), Gab removes itself from the moderator role, which it sees as the problem on social media today.
While the site feels like a conservative chatroom, as Buzzfeed News observed, Torba insisted that Gab is meant for people of many ideologies.
“Gab is not for any particular group of people, political leaning, race, beliefs, or anything,” he told Buzzfeed. “Anybody is welcome to express themselves on Gab.”