LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
A new social network has grown quietly in recent months. It's called Gab, and its users are invited to speak freely and appeal attractive to many members of the far-right and others who feel their views are stifled by mainstream sites like Twitter and Facebook. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.
ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: The first time I heard about Gab was in a video by Richard Spencer. He is a white nationalist, a major alt-right figure. In November, he got suspended from Twitter and talked about it on YouTube.
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RICHARD SPENCER: To be honest, I don't know what I'm going to do. There's obviously Gab, which is an interesting medium. I signed up for it. I haven't done much of anything there. I think that will be the place where we go next.
SELYUKH: At the time, Gab was only a few weeks old and invitation only, a brainchild of a young CEO in a make America great again hat taking on what he calls the big social with a motto - free speech for everyone. Here he is, Andrew Torba, in a recent GabTV livestream.
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ANDREW TORBA: You go to Facebook, you go to Twitter, you know, you go to Google, they're all powered by advertisers, so they're all beholden to advertisers. That's why you see a lot of the censorship going on.
SELYUKH: Torba pitches Gab as a refuge from the liberal bias of the mainstream sites. As Facebook and Twitter try to clean up content and misinformation, Gab argues people should be able to post whatever they want as long as it's legal.
So the address is gab.ai, and it prompts me to sign in, which I will do.
I've been on Gab for about a month, and it's now open to anyone. It sort of combines Twitter, Reddit and Facebook. You can follow people and re-post or comment on anything anywhere. There are permanent categories like cuisine or sports and sort of trending ones. Some of the posts are benign and others are racist and disturbing.
Old school cool. Let's check out that one. There's that weird image of a rabbit that also looks like a duck. Some images of IBM computers from the '70s. This looks like a postcard with black people eating watermelon. A ton of photos of classic cars. Lots of music from Blondie. Photos of young Clint Eastwood, Audrey Hepburn. I'm not sure who that is. Here's an image of some klansmen, including what look like children, wearing hoods in a field.
Of course, you don't have to follow white supremacists or conspiracy theorists. Gab lets users mute whatever they want. But this is the site in the wild - a chicken recipe, a prayer in support of President Trump, then a startling image, then a dog video. And everywhere, a tremendous amount of debate over news.
RYAN DONKER: Well, it's a bit more Wild West-ish I guess I would say than Twitter or any of the other platforms.
SELYUKH: This is Ryan Donker. I originally saw him posting in the science topics on Gab and later followed him on Twitter.
Your Internet handle is TruckDrivingRyan, and you actually drive trucks for a living.
DONKER: Yes, I actually do, 18-wheelers.
SELYUKH: When I reached him on the phone, Donker was actually in his truck at a terminal in between assignments.
DONKER: Supporting the backbone of America (laughter).
SELYUKH: Donker describes himself as libertarian. He says Trump is better than Hillary Clinton, but he doesn't always agree with the president. Donker is also openly gay. His partner is an immigrant. On Gab, he says he's faced off with a few haters but that's what he likes about it - people, laid bare.
DONKER: You know, this social media starts as a place to be free and open and share a bunch of thoughts and ideas all willy-nilly is the way it should be. I don't want you to feed me. I want a buffet where I can pick what I want. I don't want an algorithm to control my news feed. I want to decide for myself.
SELYUKH: The site's founder says more than 170,000 people are now on Gab, and the site is funded by contributions from users. It's got an app for Android, but Apple continues to reject Gab from its app store over the site's content. Alina Selyukh, NPR News.
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