PayPal banned social network Gab.ai on Saturday, following reports that the suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting had published a number of anti-Semitic posts on the site, which is popular with conservatives and the white nationalist “alt-right.”
“When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action,” a PayPal spokesperson said in an email. “PayPal has been closely monitoring Gab.Ai and was in the process of canceling the site’s account before today’s tragic events occurred.”
Earlier Saturday, CNN had reported that Robert Bowers, the suspect in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, had said on Gab that a Jewish group that advocates for refugees was helping transport members of the migrant caravans in Latin America. Bowers reportedly considered the migrants violent “invaders” threatening the US.
Five minutes before the first emergency calls about the synagogue attack, CNN reported, Bowers posted the following message on Gab: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” The shooting has left at least 11 people dead. Bowers had also posted photos of his gun collection on Gab, CNN said.
Contacted Saturday, Gab pointed to a statement on Medium in which it said it “unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence,” that it’s “saddened and disgusted” by the news of the shooting and that “criminals and criminal behavior exist on every social media platform.”
“Gab’s mission is very simple: to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people,” the statement said. Gab said it learned of Bowers’ account shortly after the shooting and that it backed up account data, suspended the account, and contacted the FBI about Bowers’ postings.
In August, Microsoft’s Azure hosting service warned Gab it would pull service over what it called anti-Semitic remarks posted by Senate candidate Patrick Little. Little removed the posts.
This past September, PayPal banned Infowars, the notorious site spearheaded by Alex Jones, the fiery right-wing broadcaster who’s claimed, among other things, that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was an anti-gun hoax and that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring run out of a Washington, DC, pizzeria. Jones has since sued PayPal, saying the ban has damaged Infowars’ legitimacy.
In August 2017, after the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, PayPal had said it wouldn’t allow its digital payments service to be used by people or groups that preach hate.
“Regardless of the individual or organisation in question,” the company said, “we work to ensure that our services are not used to accept payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence, or racial intolerance. This includes organisations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups, or Nazi groups.”
iHate: Techhnews looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.
Infowars and Silicon Valley: Everything you need to know about the tech industry’s free speech debate.