A new social network that puts an emphasis on freedom of speech and lack of censorship is quickly gathering new members. Gab.ai has only been around for three weeks and is still in closed Beta, but it already has 12,000 users and over 47,000 people on its waiting list, according to Buzzfeed.
Founded by vocal Trump supporter Andrew Torba, Gab is positioning itself as an alternative platform to Facebook and Twitter. The site is gaining traction in the wake of Twitter’s banning of Breitbart’s tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos after he was accused of inciting his supporters to direct abuse at Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.
Facebook, meanwhile, has faced mounting criticism since allegations that it routinely suppressed news stories that supported conservative views in its trending topics section – despite a Senate Commerce Committee finding no evidence of political bias.
In an email to Buzzfeed News, Torba said: “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.”
Gab’s functions are like a mix of Twitter and Reddit. Posts appear chronologically, have a 300-character limit, and can be upvoted or downvoted. The ones that receive the most upvotes appear in the Top Gabs trending section. The site has already received more than 2.7 million pageviews on 240,000 posts.
You get an idea of what Gab is about on its home page, which features a quote from British author Salman Rushdie: “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
Unsurprisingly, Gab is proving very popular with those who possess more conservative tendencies, but Torba stresses that it isn’t just for people with right-leaning views. “Gab is not FOR any particular group of people, political leaning, race, beliefs, or anything,” he wrote. “Anybody is welcome to express themselves on Gab.”
The site isn’t completely without rules when it comes to what can be posted. Threats of violence aren’t allowed, and neither is illegal pornography, or exposing someone's information (doxing) without their consent. Gab also features keyword filtering, the ability to mute users, and offers the option only to see posts from verified (via a valid form of ID) users.
It will be interesting to see how Gab progresses. We'll have to wait and see whether it grows into a genuine alternative to the popular social networks and gives people more choice over what they read/post, or it becomes nothing more than an alt-right chat room that eventually fades away.