Yesterday, in a video posted to his Twitter account, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) denounced the far-right social media platform Gab as “antisemitic.” “Antisemitic platforms like Gab have no place in Texas,” Abbott declared. “And certainly do not represent Texas values.”
Abbott’s comments come on the heels of a report that Gab CEO Andrew Torba actively courted antisemitic figures like Roosh Valizadeh and E. Michael Jones for his website. Torba admitted in a post to his Gab account that he is a “big fan” of both Valizadeh and Jones, and owns signed copies of their books.
Of course, Gab’s problems are far deeper than this.
In 2018, alleged white supremacist terrorist Robert Bowers posted to Gab shortly before his massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Before that, Bowers interacted with multiple white supremacists on Gab, and worked on that website to dox a left-wing blogger. The official Twitter account for Gab has also posted numerous antisemitic messages in the past.
Still, Torba made a guest appearance today on Steve Bannon’s War Room: Pandemic podcast to defend his website. After suggesting that Gov. Abbott deserves to be primaried, Torba suggested his accusations of bigotry were an attack on Gab’s users.
“Well I was just gonna say it’s a big disservice to, again, the 30 million people who are using our platform including many of them who are Jewish,” Torba said. “And many of our customers are Jewish. Many of our active users are Jewish. So this is a complete disservice to them and to this community of tens of millions of people that we’re building.”
Bannon asked Torba if “any of your Jewish users or any of the Jewish people that use the site or groups that use the site” complained about antisemitic content on Gab. Torba replied that no one had, and in fact expressed public support for Gab.
“They’re replying to the Gov. Abbott tweet and saying ‘Listen, I’m a Jew, I’m a customer of Gab, I’m an active user of Gab. Sometimes I see stuff I don’t agree with and I don’t like, but I’m an adult and Gab has a block button and an unfollow button and that’s just the way the world works,'” Torba said.
Both Torba and War Room: Pandemic co-host Raheem Kassam engaged in whataboutism to defend Gab as well.
“Andrew, let me ask you this question: Does the Ayatollah of Iran have a Gab account?” Kassam asked, presumably referring to Ali Khamenei. “He does not, no,” Torba responded. Kassam then asked if the Ayatollah has a Twitter account which he uses to “spread antisemitic messages.” “Absolutely. Absolutely,” said Torba.
Kassam then implied that Gov. Abbott was hypocritical for criticizing Gab for its antisemitic content while giving Twitter a pass.
Torba pivoted to more serious concerns, like child exploitation which he claimed is rampant on Facebook. “Everybody buries this under the rug. The number one place on the Internet for child exploitation according to FBI statistics — 85% of child exploitation reports — come from Facebook, right?” Torba said. “Nobody’s talking about this.”
“They’re allowed to process payments. They’re allowed to have banks. They’re allowed to be on app stores,” he complained. “And this disgusting behavior, this disgusting and criminal and immoral behavior is going on on their platforms. And they’re funding this behavior by allowing it to happen.”
Raheem Kassam then read off a racist tweet to point out that bigotry also exists on that platform — which was never in doubt and, again, does not absolve Torba of his promotion of antisemites.
Torba said this sort of hatred is “all over” Twitter and Facebook. And he defended his decision to allow white supremacists and other extremists on Gab by pointing out that it’s not “illegal.” He also said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant for this stuff,” and that banning extremists also prevents other people from “having a conversation” with them and changing their minds.