Gab.ai, commonly called Gab, went live two days ago. I’ve been on the site since mid-September shortly after it debuted so I’ve decided to review it and talk a little about where it was and where it is now. More specifically, I’d like to talk about it as a place to spread identitarian and Alt-Right ideas.
Gab isn’t just Twitter for conservatives. In the early days it was very Twitter like, you used hashtags to tag trending topics, people use @ to talk to each other, and the layout was very Twitter-esque with a frog mascot instead of a bird. There is an option to have a croak sound when you make a post. Cute at first but it gets a little annoying. Thankfully you can turn it off under settings.
The people I met at first were generally libertarian and conservative. This probably has to do with the fact that a number of high profile people from Breitbart were talking about it as a free speech alternative to Twitter, and it is. Their policy is simple: no illegal porn, no threats, and no doxxing. Other than that have at it.
Early criticisms of the platform revolved around the association of Breitbart and a number of other right leaning journalists with the site’s founder Andrew Torba. Torba was a Silicon Valley insider who got sick of the PC and censorious culture of the tech industry and decided to start something new. The association with some of these people, as well as the use of the frog as the company’s symbol, led to accusations that the site was Alt-Right.
That wasn’t and isn’t true. Torba has said many times that all are welcome on Gab.
But in practice that’s not how it worked. From the beginning the site was basically a Republican hugbox. There were some odd balls that I loved following sure, but most of the people were really kind of middle of the road conservatives and a few libertarians. It was nice though being able to talk to people in a civilized manner on social media.
I met some really cool people that I still talk to today. We started our own Discord server and just hung out talking about right wing stuff. Turns out quite a few of the people I met were nationalists and a few were Alt-Right.
But frustration soon set in. With the lack of liberals and the company policy of not policing the trending topics there was little room for anything else but political topics. For nearly eight months the top trending topics were #MAGA #Trump #GabFam and #SpeakFreely. It got old. Me and a couple of people from the a fore mentioned Discord server decided to fix the problem. One day after a Muslim terror attack in January we hijacked the system and got #BanIslam trending for almost two days.
The virtue signaling from TruCons was delicious.
But this was indicative of the major problem Gab had. No quality control. When new people showed up they realized the only way to get a post noticed, and thus to get followers, was to tag it with #MAGA or #Trump. Quickly you ended up with posts that had nothing to do with politics being tagged in politics. Torba and company came up with a really cool idea that, to me, makes Gab better than Twitter. They introduced categories. There are quite a few so I won’t name them all but you tag a post into a category like politics, philosophy, music, entertainment or the like and people can search through to find what they are interested in.
The trending hashtags section is no longer active. Good, it made Gab feel like it was imitating Twitter. We now have an option of talking in live categories as well, which seem to be curated from the day’s news. This is another really cool addition to the site that I think will attract a lot of new users.
So what is the site like for the Alt-Right? Glad you asked.
There are some great Gabbers on the site, probably the most visible are Vox Day and Brittany Pettibone. However, there are many others that post regularly as well.
Most of the Gabbers are quite smart. There are anonymous scientists and professors pulling back the curtain of academia. The site is full of writers and artists as well, so it’s a good place to discover right wing, conservative, libertarian and identitarian artists you can support.
Torba and company had a lot of trouble getting their app to the iTunes store simply because they were accused of not policing hateful content. This was absurd considering some of the crap that can be found in that store. The Gab app for Android also doesn’t work very well right now. Sometimes it is completely blank in fact.
But that can be fixed with time.
Gab’s business model doesn’t revolve around selling ads, so there is little chance of pressure to censor “hate” posts from corporate sponsors. The site is free to use, but it does accept donations and there is also Gab Pro. Either of which will provide you with a few perks like the ability to post photos. Subscribing or donating to a lot of platforms can get exhausting, but Gab is worth it. It is also relatively easy for anyone who is using their real name to get verified as well. The blue check mark isn’t just for celebrities shilling for their corporate sponsors here.
One interesting addition is GabTV. Both Vox and Pettibone have broadcast on it. It’s a neat feature, but I worry that perhaps Torba and company are spreading themselves too thin.
Politically, Gab presents a nice overlap of right wingers. There are Alt-Right people, but it’s not an Alt-Right site by any stretch of the imagination. In fact from what I can tell, it’s mostly populated with Alt-Lite civic nationalists and center-right Trump supporters. This is good, this is where we can expose identitarian or nationalist ideas to people who might otherwise not engage with us. We reveal our views to them slowly. They become comfortable with us, realize we’re not a bunch of Neo-Nazis or understand we’re not planning the Final Solution 2.0. Then you look up one day and people you’ve been talking to cordially for a month now have #AltRight in their profile and you feel a little joy.
This is fertile recruiting ground. All in all, Gab is a great place for us. It’s not as big as Twitter, it’s also not backed by a Saudi prince, and hasn’t been around for ten years, and isn’t in a financial death spiral. The site is unique to social media and seems to be evolving. Torba is taking good care of it. (Even his mom Amy Torba is on the site, and she is really cool too).
There really isn’t much of a liberal presence on Gab. From time to time some lonely little progressive will show up in my timeline, but he quickly gets downvoted. Thus in the game of collecting “frog points” there really isn’t much psychological incentive for leftists to stick around.
If you’re not on Gab you can now sign up without waiting a month for an invite, so head over to gab.ai and do it.