The suspect in the Saturday attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue had a following on social media platform Gab, the favored platform of the so-called “alt-right.”
In fact, prior to the deadly massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, the shooting suspect posted an ominous message to Gab attacking the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) — a prominent Jewish pro-refugee organization, writing, “HIAS like to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
But the alleged shooter’s account is just one of many on the site that propagates hatred and violence toward marginalized communities with no action from the site’s CEO. In fact, a violent neo-Nazi paramilitary gang has been using the platform to organize and recruit new members. As of this writing, Gab CEO Andrew Torba has done nothing to stop it.
Already, one of the gang’s members has been accused of murdering 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein — a gay Jewish man — by stabbing him nearly two dozen times before burying him in a shallow grave at a park in Orange County, California. Following the murder, the gang’s members celebrated the killer, calling him “a one man gay Jew wrecking crew,” according to ProPublica.
Storyful intelligence analyst Michael E. Hayden tweeted Saturday that the group is freely recruiting members to its cause using Gab, which he called “an engine for anti-Semitism and bigotry.”
One example Hayden posted included a recruitment flyer posted by Gab user @1488totenkopf (referencing a popular neo-Nazi slogan and the German name for the skull-and-crossbones symbol worn by Nazi SS officers) that read “Nowhere to run or ride,” “We are everywhere,” and “Support your local Nazis.”
Another post from user @NaziMemes featured a video in honor of the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 69 children at a summer camp in 2011, and another post from a Gab user going by @Atomis asked how he could join the group. And a post from user @LibertarianNationalist used the hashtag #MakeJournalistsAfraidAgain when posting “The Order did nothing wrong” — referring to a white supremacist group that killed Jewish journalist Alan Berg in 1984.
Since people are finally paying attention to @getongab, I want to highlight again that the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division and others plotting violence are organizing on that platform out in the open.
The CEO does nothing about this issue: pic.twitter.com/80QOsdwmqe
— Michael Exorcist II: The Heretic ⛪️🤘🏽💀🐆 (@MichaelEHayden) October 27, 2018
Gab has become the go-to social media platform for white supremacists who have been banned from other platforms like Twitter and Facebook. A Daily Beast report from earlier this year claimed several prominent white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville regularly used Gab to strategize with other white supremacists. Gab’s reputation has gotten its app banned from both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, and, as of Saturday evening, from PayPal as well.
According to a Bloomberg profile of Torba from 2017, the platform’s founder associates with alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos (who called for armed vigilantes to kill journalists just days prior to the Capital Gazette massacre in Maryland) and Andrew Anglin, the founder of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
(Grit Post’s editorial policy is to not publish the names or likenesses of mass shooters or domestic terrorists, or name white supremacist organizations, in order to prevent them from attaining notoriety.)
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.