Late last year, I reported on a new social network called Gab that was quickly gaining popularity. It was positioned as an alternative to the likes of Twitter and Facebook, focusing on free speech and less censorship. Now, the app has been kicked off Google’s store for hate speech.
When it launched last year, Gab described itself as "an ad-free social network for creators who believe in free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online."
Google says it banned the platform, which has proved popular among alt-right and far-right users, for violating its hate speech policy. The company follows in the footsteps of Apple, who has rejected the app from its store on numerous occasions for “user content.”
Breaking news: Google has removed Gab's Android app from the Google Play Store for "hate speech." pic.twitter.com/jPqeEx1ID1— Gab (@getongab) August 17, 2017
After Google fired engineer James Damore over his controversial manifesto, and in the wake of the Charlottesville protests that led to tech firms cracking down on extremist sites, Gab received a huge boost to its crowdfunding campaign, which has now received over $1 million from over 1000 investors.
It’s still unclear what led to Gab being removed from Google's store. Users note that Twitter, Facebook, and the other social media sites contain thousands of people spouting racial hatred, and they’re still available on Play. But perhaps its booting is due to the sheer amount of these posts that regularly appear on Gab.
It’s speculated that the move could be related to neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. Following its removal from GoDaddy, Google, and Russian domains, founder Andrew Anglin said he would post articles on Gab until he could find another solution.
Gab itself suggests the move could be related to the fact it recently offered a job to Damore. "Really interesting that shortly after Gab offered [Damore] a job and supported him in the media that our app gets pulled from Google," it tweeted.
Really interesting that shortly after Gab offered @Fired4Truth a job and supported him in the media that our app gets pulled from Google.— Gab (@getongab) August 18, 2017
While Gab is no longer available on the Play Store, it can still be sideloaded, and users can access the website on mobile and desktop.
Expect Gab’s removal to add more fuel to the free speech argument. As noted to by the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with.”