Gab is advertised as a place for people to express themselves, and for their companies to engage in commerce. All of us have come here from other platforms with hostile, foreign-controlled, hateful moderation teams & policies which were designed specifically to crush what we value most. We all have a vested interest in Gab's approach to moderation.
The first thing to acknowledge is that not all accounts are people or businesses who joined to participate in a community. Some accounts are created in order to spam & scam. Those accounts are black market commercial operations, not people. Ban them instantly. Everyone will cheer.
Some accounts are created for the sole purpose of smearing filth on the walls. Some of these do nothing but post porn, which is not speech. Others do nothing but post violent remarks with the clear intention of generating screenshots for reporters to breathlessly libel Gab as a hotbed of violent extremists. This is what tw*tt*er would call "inauthentic behavior." Ban them instantly. No one will even notice, because they never had any friends.
The vast majority of people on Gab are real humans who are here to talk to each other. Sometimes that talk involves saying that violence may or should occur. This is completely legal. Two years ago, Andrew himself planted a flag in the ground on the paramount importance of using the Brandenburg test:
Unfortunately in the intervening two years, Gab has become the place where this exactly method of censorship is occurring even when the posts clearly do not violate the TOS. In fact if you look at Gab's actual TOS, Brandenburg is still the rule. The enforcement actions being taken today are contrary to Gab's own Terms of Service. This is a tremendous misstep, and one that is going to end up killing Gab as an actual free speech platform if they don't revert to the previous good rules. The fact that Gab now has secret, unpublished rules that are getting normal users banned makes Gab literally worse than tw*tt*r.
Here is the Brandenburg test that Andrew mentions above. Every Gab user (and everyone on the internet) should memorize this, and steer clear, because making such statements is a crime. Anyone who posts anything like this should be banned, no question.
So here's the proposal: quit pretending that the rules need to be fair & equally applied to everyone. A 48-hour old account that says something kinda fedposty, but fails the Brandenburg test should be censored, locked, or outright banned. Those are hallmarks of utterly inauthentic behavior. There is no reason to presume that's someone who ever had any intention of using Gab like the rest of us. This isn't censoring speech; it's whacking the mole.
On the other hand, if an account that is months or years old, with normal user activity one day says something sort of fedposty, but fails the Brandenburg test? Ignore it completely. They didn't break the law. They didn't break the TOS. Their posts aren't part of some external plot to bring down the platform.
And if it's a Pro account, that means the person donated $100+ to Gab. The few extra features Pro offers are worth maybe $10 a year (apart from GabTV). We donate the difference because we love & support Gab; we believe in the platform and the company. So when a Pro user says something sort of fedposty, but fails the Brandenburg test, not only do you leave it alone, but you also consider that if the user believed they were saying something bannable, they would be forfeiting their entire donation without recourse. It's ludicrous.
Congress classifies sites like Gab as "interactive computer services." The Communications Decent Act § 230 that's been in the news for the last year or so explicitly confirms that all liability for what Gab users post on Gab rests with the user. The reason Congress created CDA 230 was to clarify that services like Gab would not be opting into liability for that content if they chose to exercise editorial control over it. It's a loophole to allow censorship without waiving Gab's rights as what is in effect a public conveyance. But Gab is not obligated to censor.
Simply put, it is not Gab's job to make sure there are no fedposts. Gab has no liability for what users post. Users, on the other hand, absolutely do. If you fedpost, and especially if you are stupid enough to violate Brandenburg & get banned, you should expect to be vistited by the FBI accompanied by your local police. It has happened to more than one person I know, and not even for fedposting. Gab has every right & obligation to hand over your IP address to the Feds, and they will find you. Your VPN doesn't do squat. If you want to play chicken with the Feds, it's not Gab's problem; it's yours.
What About Assholes?
People are getting warnings now for a new secret rule against "encouraging self-harm." This is something tw*tt*r invented, and it is flat out vile. Telling someone on the internet to kill himself is as old as the internet. Is it Christian? Certainly not. Is it polite? Not even close. Is it in any way threatening or harmful to anyone? lol
If Gab is going to have users, Gab is going to have assholes. Lots of people think I'm one of them, and honestly it doesn't matter enough to me to argue. You cannot ban people for being assholes. I'll just use Andrew's own words here again, because I want this guy back.
If someone tells you to kill themselves, you can mute or block them. You'll never hear from them again. There is absolutely zero moderation implication for saying any manner of mean things to another user, ever. Any moderation policy that involves interfering in two users talking to each other should be flat out banned.
Here is what should be the golden rule for Gab's moderation team: you are guarding the gates of Gab, keeping wolves from getting inside. The threat is without, and that is where your vigilance is needed. What you are not is hall monitors, school marms, or prison guards on the tower looking to break up fights or protect hurt feelings. Short of rank illegality, which as Andrew correctly stated above, "you don't need to be a lawyer to see," mods should be 100% hands-off all established user activity.
What I post on Gab is my property, and mine alone. Gab has a license to distribute it, but it isn't theirs to alter or destroy for any reason. They have my IP address. If the Feds decide to deal with me, send them my way. (The only response they will get is "I don't answer questions, and you are tresspassing.)
Andrew Torba has been placed under stress for the last few years that would–without exaggeration–kill some lesser men. It is a miracle from God that he still has the energy & sanity to fight the entire world to build Gab. What concerns me in the last year is that increasingly it seems like he is falling for the natural urge to just do something. Unfortunately that something is very clearly to mimic many of the worst aspects of tw*tt*r. Gab is slowly becoming tw*tt*r, and that is more clear every day for the reasons outlined above. I really hope we aren't still talking about this bullshit in 2022. We have so much more pressing matters.