Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott waded into controversy by branding Gab, a minimum-moderation alternative to Twitter, an anti-Semitic platform. The problem is, the Texas GOP joined Gab in late January.
Abbott’s attack against Gab came out of the blue. A short video clip posted by the governor’s social media account shows him flanked by representatives Phil King and Craig Goldman, sitting against a backdrop of the flags of the US, Israel, and Texas.
“Anti-Semitic platforms like Gab have no place in Texas and certainly do not represent Texas values,” he declared. Legislation “fighting anti-Semitism” like that penned by fellow Republican lawmakers, on the contrary, does represent the values of the Lone Star State, he added.
Gab is a controversial microblogging service catering to a conservative-leaning user base. It prides itself on collecting a minimum of user data to make identifying people on it harder, and on having lenient moderation policies in the name of freedom of speech. Critics call it a hotbed of radical right-wing views. The platform reported a surge in popularity after Big Tech launched a crackdown on undesired speech in the wake of the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
The jab from Texas didn’t go unnoticed, with Gab CEO Andrew Torba posting a response hours later. He called Abbott’s characterization a “false statement smearing Gab,” and predicted that it “will likely not sit well with the nearly 800,000 Texans who have visited Gab.com in the past 24 hours alone.”
Ironically, the Texas branch of the Republican Party has a Gab account, as it announced on Twitter in late January. Torba pointed this fact out, posting a link to an archived version of the tweet, presumably in anticipation of it being deleted. He went on to defend his company, saying that its stance on free speech inevitably means that “unpopular viewpoints may be found on the site,” but that it doesn’t make the platform itself anti-Semitic.
It was not immediately clear which legislation Abbott touted as antithetical to Gab’s purported anti-Semitism. King recently penned a bill on the “creation of the Texas Commission on Antisemitism,” while Goldman introduced one on the “Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.” Both lawmakers have strong ties to Israel and were behind the 2017 Texas law which banned the state from doing business with organizations involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS aims to put economic pressure on Israel over its policies towards Palestinians and is considered an enemy by the Jewish nation.
Among Gab’s critics is the powerful Anti-Defamation League, a US-based Jewish organization that touts itself as an anti-hate watchdog. In January, it called on the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of the platform for allegedly allowing users to plan and coordinate the Capitol Hill riot. However, the same could be said about platforms such as Facebook, according to post-riot analysis of social media reported in the US media.
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