Stripe steps away from Gab network after synagogue shooting

Online payments company said it was suspending transfers from social network

A posting made on  social media website Gab by Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers shortly before the shooting. Photograph: AP Photo

A posting made on social media website Gab by Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers shortly before the shooting. Photograph: AP Photo

 

Tech companies including Stripe and PayPal, have threatened to withdraw their services from Gab, a social network catering primarily to US conservatives that had been used by the man accused of killing 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Since Saturday’s shooting, Gab has been accused of not doing enough to prevent free expression from tipping over into hate speech on its site.

Stripe and PayPal, as well as hosting provider Joyent, all said they would stop Gab from using their services, citing violations of their terms of services, which do not allow hate speech.

Gab slammed the moves as “direct collusion between big tech giants” against it.

Stripe, the Silicon Valley-based online payments company established by Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collison, said over the weekend that it was suspending transfers “effective immediately”.

The company said Gab founder Andrew Torba had not “provided us sufficient evidence that Gab actually prevents violations of our policies”.

“If there’s more information you can provide on how exactly Gab will moderate its platform for adult content and other violations of our ToS [terms of service], we’re open to having a phone call this week to discuss,” the payments company said.

The moves are likely to reopen the debate about the limits of free speech online and the potential for social networks to radicalise users.

Gab was launched two years ago by tech entrepreneur Andrew Torba, who became frustrated with what he perceived as a bias against conservative views on California-based social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

His site soon attracted controversial right-wing figures, including Richard Spencer and Alex Jones, who had been suspended or banned from other social networks.

Anti-Semitic posts

Robert Bowers, who has been charged over the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, was among Gab’s hundreds of thousands of users, the company confirmed on Saturday. Mr Bowers, whose profile on Gab featured images of guns and white supremacist iconography, made anti-Semitic posts and threats on the site just hours before the shooting.

“Gab unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence,” Gab said in a statement, adding that it had been working with law-enforcement agencies after suspending the suspect’s account.

This weekend is not the first time Gab has been sharply criticised for the content it hosts. Last year, after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Google removed Gab from Google Play, its mobile app store, claiming it violated its policy on hate speech.

In August 2018, Microsoft threatened to remove Gab from its Azure platform over a series of anti-Semitic posts which it said could incite violence, breaching its terms of service. Apple has repeatedly rejected Gab’s app from its App Store, due to its “objectionable content”.

The latest suspensions by PayPal and Stripe could deprive Gab of the income it needs to remain functioning, as it scrambles to find alternative hosting services to keep its site online. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018