The CEO of Gab, a fringe social network known to attract white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, the far-right and personalities banned from mainstream platforms, says the site gained around 600,000 new users on Sunday.
Andrew Torba, a conservative programmer who launched the site in 2016, said in a post on Monday that his service had enjoyed a wave of new users and that his team added 10 new servers to cope with demand resulting from the sudden influx.
The apparent surge, which has not been independently verified, came as the rival “free speech” site Parler was shut down by Apple, Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) for failing to moderate user content with the potential to incite hate or violence.
Torba said in a video posted to the Gab Twitter account on Monday that his site was left with an opportunity to “export the First Amendment to billions of people around the world who do not have that luxury,” noting he expects government opposition.
He said: “We are adding 600,000 users every day and that number is probably going to continue compounding, it may reach a million a day over the next couple of days.”
Like Parler, which launched with funding from Republican donor Rebecca Mercer, Gab was pitched as being light on moderation—unlike Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
That meant it became a home for extremism, and in October 2018 Gab found itself in a similar situation to Parler as hosting services and payment providers cut ties after a man accused of killing 11 people in a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Robert Bowers, was found to have been a member.
Gab returned to the web in November 2018. While it says users should not “unlawfully threaten” or “incite imminent lawless action,” its focus remains on not punishing users for “exercising their God-given right to speak freely,” according to the guidelines.
In an in-depth profile published in 2018, news outlet Vox reported that the website was an “epicenter of extremely anti-Semitic and anti-black content.”
Despite seemingly benefiting from Parler’s swift disappearance, Gab’s Twitter account said it hoped Parler’s team would be able to “figure something out” to return online in the future. Torba released a statement on the matter earlier on Sunday.
He wrote: “If your business is built on the backs of Silicon Valley tyrants (Apple, Google, et al) they can and will attempt to destroy you if and when you become a threat.”
“Terrible content of all kinds is available on Twitter and Facebook… yet both companies are on both App Stores. Apple banning Parler is not the neutral implementation of some objective standard but rather a cynical, politically motivated gesture and evidence of Silicon Valley elites’ disdain for ordinary Americans,” Torba’s post continued.
A request for comment sent by Newsweek to a media email address advertised on the Gab website resulted in a bounce-back response on Monday. The website appeared to remain strained on Monday when tested, often slow and unresponsive.
Facebook and Twitter blocked President Donald Trump last week after a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., a riot that alarmed world leaders and claimed the lives of five people, including a police officer.
Parler was left inaccessible on Monday after AWS stopped hosting its site. That move came after Google and Apple pulled the app from their mobile store marketplaces.