Last week, the free speech oriented social media platform Gab came under scrutiny, and was shut down by their service provider, after a member of the site carried out a terrorist attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue, shooting and killing 11 people, leaving 6 others wounded.
Gab has been around since 2016 and has billed itself as a free alternative to platforms like Facebook and Twitter where users are regularly censored and banned.
Since the platform has a zero-censorship policy, it has become somewhat of a haven for white supremacists and hate groups. However, Gab has instituted features which allow users to filter out content that they find offensive.
The shooter had profiles on all the major social networks, but Gab became a target because they refuse to censor any of their users, while sites like Facebook and Twitter have a certain level of plausible deniability because they put so much effort into policing content.
It is not just hate groups who are having their accounts removed in this new wave of online censorship. Just this month, over 1000 accounts were either removed or suspended from Facebook and Twitter, with some organizations having their pages taken down on both platforms on the same day. The vast majority of these pages were affiliated with journalist and activist websites with no affiliation to hate groups.
In addition to the chilling implications for internet freedom, shutting down platforms where hate groups post publicly actually has the unintended consequence of driving them underground where they are more difficult to monitor.
The curation of content on these platforms is now being directed by an influential think tank called The Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council's sources of funding have come under question from activist groups, who suggest that donations from banks and weapons contractors represent a conflict of interest.
In the wake of the recent purge of independent media sites, journalists are flocking to blockchain-based alternatives. Last week, CryptoGlobe reported that Overstock founder and CEO Patrick Byrne's blockchain subsidiary Medici Ventures invested $6 million in the decentralized social network "Minds," amid the censorship controversy. In addition to the large investment, Byrne will also be joining the Minds board of directors.
In addition to Minds, there are also a numerous other platforms that have given a voice to censored journalists, most notably BitTube (TUBE), which is the first app of its kind that has a user-experience comparable to YouTube. Many writers have also found a home on Steemit, the blockchain based social network that pays content creators rewards from the mining pool.
Earlier this month, newscaster Ben Swann announced a new blockchain based journalism project called Isegoria, which hopes to give a voice to some of the reporters who have been disenfranchised by the dominant social media websites. Isegoria, which will also be known as the ISE Network, is currently in development.
Ben Swann is announcing his next project, https://t.co/h3OnVHn3Ah. Jump to 22:43 for the section on how Isegoria will work as a streaming network, channel platform for dissenting voices & a treasury system for indie journalists. https://t.co/ffnqP1N4WC #FacebookPurge pic.twitter.com/r4exa0OaW4— Ben Swann (@BenSwann_) October 12, 2018
CryptoGlobe spoke with blockchain developer Mike Baysek, Co founder of Stepwyze, the team behind the ISE Network. Baysek said that the actions taken against Gab is a threat for the free speech of everyone, not just hate groups. Baysek explained:
What happened in Pittsburgh is terrible. I send my condolences to all involved and I pray that the perpetrators are brought to justice. This happened ever so swiftly and quickly after the terrorist event in Pittsburgh. It's great, and I'm relieved that authorities have the suspect in custody. However, Internet Service Provider, Joyent's action to suspend services to Gab as a result of criminal outcomes that have not been adjudicated is something that should be of great concern to everyone. The suspect merely had an account/on this service. He did not own the service. It's all but certain that he had accounts on other services like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and the like. What is happening here is that, in the wake of social media censorship backlash, the mainstream media are trying to manufacture the public's consent to shut down alternatives to the centrally controlled, managed and surveilled social networks.This is why blockchain is so important. We can't censor away the evils of humanity. We need to record them accurately and forever, so we can never forget this barbaric time in our history. Those who are ignorant to history are condemned to repeating it.