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There’s Nothing ‘Intersectional’ About Free Speech

The article that follows is the second instalment of “Who Controls the Platform?”—a multi-part Quillette series authored by social-media insiders. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com.

Censorship is a tool of repression as old as civilization. And fighting it has always been dangerous: Socrates was sentenced to death in 399 B.C. largely because he refused to pander to a panel of moralizing censors.

These days, the punishments tend to be less severe (in Western countries, at least). More commonly, the ancient menace of censorship now takes the form of social opprobrium imposed by online hordes supposedly representing the interests of oppressed minority groups—by which I mean hordes of people claiming, almost always without basis, to speak for these groups while promoting their own narrow political agendas.

This censorship effort receives back-office ideological support from scholars promoting “intersectionality” and similar theories, which draw heavily from Marxist and post-Marxist thinking on economics and power relationships. It also encourages adherents to view the world through a lens of “oppression and the need for revolution.” As with Marxism, intersectionality presents the historical relations between people on the basis of rigid group identities, crafting narratives inevitably centered on the theme of oppressor versus oppressed.

This worldview requires individuals to regard themselves first as members of particular groups, and only second as individuals. Any dissent from such orthodoxies is dangerous to the intersectionality movement, as it serves to invalidate activists’ claims to speak on behalf of group members—which is one reason why intersectional activists now act as some of the biggest supporters of de facto censorship.

It is increasingly common to see ideological dissent punished swiftly by online mobs, whether the dissenters be in academia, Hollywood, the business world or journalism. Professors at Yale have been driven from their posts, monuments have been torn down, careers have been ruined for throwaway social media posts from many years ago. And dissenters on both the political Right and Left alike have been systematically removed from mainstream technology platforms.

As a platform, Gab takes no stand regarding intersectionality—or any other trendy movement. Gab does, however, take a stand against censorship. Gab exists to protect dissent in all its forms and dissenters wherever they may be.

We promote this goal by adopting the most effective anti-censorship legal mechanism ever devised: the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment provides the guiding principle for all of Gab’s moderation and data-disclosure policies. Gab will not censor anyone, nor will we voluntarily hand over data on any user, to any government, in relation to political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

Gab’s First Amendment-based approach to free speech has proven extremely unpopular among the literati, who refer to Gab as “Nazi Twitter” or “Twitter for racists” because we stand firm in standing up for First Amendment principles and so refuse to ban users for their political opinions. Gab’s critics fail to understand that there is a dangerous world beyond the U.S. and other Western nations, a world in which people of all kinds—including LGBT+progressive and conservative political dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities—are brutally oppressed and even murdered by their governments. Recently an Egyptian TV host, Mohamed al-Ghiety, was sentenced to one year of hard labor and fined for the crime of interviewing a gay man.

To defend themselves and promote their causes, the oppressed need access to media—including social media. Which is why those who value free speech have been flocking to Gab. The site has over 800,000 users today and is closing in fast on one million. As censorship undertaken by (and at the behest of) major platforms such as Twitter and Facebook grows, marginalized people have an increased need for safe places to engage in public—and, where necessary, anonymous—discussion.

By implementing a First Amendment standard as its guiding principle, Gab is in a unique position to extend U.S.-standard civil-liberties protections to marginalized people all over the planet—including journalists, members of religious minorities, LGBTQ+ persons, and politically exposed activists.

This sort of freedom leads to a freer and safer world. At Gab, we will never compromise on our commitment to protect freedom of speech for everyone.

 

Andrew Torba is CEO of Gab.

75 Comments

        • Israel Did Nine Eleven says

          Why is Quilette, and not Gab, the future?

          • codadmin says

            Gab, or something as dedicated to free speech IS the future of social media platforms. ( the tyrants always fall )

            My comment was in relation to journalism. Find me one oath serious publication that has given Torba a chance to give his side of the story?

          • Mark Bolton says

            GAB is a public forum and hence suffers from the mediocrity of crowds. Quillette is free from the taint of partisan hackery. Both have a future Mr Anderson. The Lugenpresse does not.

  1. Foyle says

    Unpopular, but sorely needed. Keep fighting the good fight.

    • ccscientist says

      Go ahead and put an unpopular opinion on Twitter and have them ban you and tell me then that it isn’t censorship. Or have an internet mob come after you for wearing a t-shirt to a NASA press conf. It isn’t gov censorship but it is censorship by the mob. Doesn’t seem dangerous until they come after you.

      • Smilfder says

        “Go ahead and put an unpopular opinion on Twitter and have them ban you and tell me then that it isn’t censorship.”

        Could you elaborate on what an “unpopular opinion” is?

        “Or have an internet mob come after you for wearing a t-shirt to a NASA press conf.”

        Is that because of a t-shirt or, pray tell, what did it say? What was the behavior of the person wearing it?

        • Angela says

          Just Google something like NASA scientist t shirt guy. It’s one the most idiotic feminist overreactions and media pile ons to ever see the light of day.

          • Angela says

            In short the tshirt didnt say anything and the NASA sciebtidy certainly didnt behave badly. You really just need to google it for yourself to truly appreciate the absurdity.

        • stripey7 says

          It was a T-shirt a female friend had custom-made for his birthday, covered with images of scantily clad women with guns. For this he was forced to tearfully apologize on live television in order to keep his position with the European Space Agency.

        • R Henry says

          Unpopular opinion: Homosexuality is fundamentally disordered and transexualism is an illness. Try that on twitter.

          • Marian Hennings says

            MAGA hats on boys during a Catholic school’s official outing may have violated church-state separation guidelines, but otherwise should be accepted as free speech regardless of the objection some of us may have to their views.

        • It wasn’t a NASA press conference, but ESA, the EU equivalent. The Hawaiian shirt, designed by British fashionista Elly Prizeman, depicted scantily clad women.

          Media coverage of the SJW reaction to the scientists shirt, called #shirtstorm, overwhelmed coverage of the incredible space mission itself, the first probe to keep station with a comet as it approached the sun.

      • Man, a lot of voices disagreeing with me.
        Help I’m being censored!

        • DeplorableDude says

          @Chip People disagreeing can be ignored. People trying to get you fired or banned is another. That is what we are talking about here.

          • @DeplorableDude You would hope that your statement is the case, but more and more political disagreement with the wrong people can be a serious career-limiting move. For a contractor it would be devastating regardless of the quality of that person’s work. Most employees and contractors learn to shut up at work even when barraged by opinion that they find disagreeable.

            When I was working, my tongue was often bloody. I had to bite hard.

    • Angela says

      Taken to the extreme that is the modern SJW social media and or campus mob than yeah it’s basically de facto censorship. Especially if youre not a well off 70 year tenured professor who can possibly afford the backlash and old enough to not give a fuck anymore.

      • Angela says

        Do you really have a right if using it means you’ll lose your job and possibly be harassed for months on end? An effective first amendment requires a mechanism to actually engage in free speech without facing obscene consequences. Also censorship isnt a word that applies only to government actions and freesom of speech is also a cultural philosophy it’s not just part of the first amendment.

        • Angela says

          Hell Charles Murray is still violently threatened all for a 10 page section out of a 1000 page book written a quarter century ago, and even those tencontroversial pages are a 100 times more mild and nuanced than his haters imagine.

        • Angela says

          Btw I’m not actually saying Twitter doesnt have a legal right to moderate their own website. Only that an attack on freedom of speech doesnt have to come from the government. Freedom of speech isnt limited to the first amendment. Tons of private schools and groups voluntarily choose to embrace the philosophy of freedom of speech because they feel it’s the right thing to do.

    • Heike says

      In a corporatist system of government, corporate censorship is state censorship. When there’s no meaningful space between corporate power and government power, it doesn’t make much difference whether the guy silencing your dissent is Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Sessions. America most definitely has such a system.

      And when independent candidates run for office and can’t get their message out for being shadow banned, and the corporatist candidates are always the number one trending subject, you’ll be there to finger wag for not bothering to set up their own multi-billion dollar world-class content distribution system first.

    • The Guy That Did That Thing That Time says

      The word means censure. So where’s the confusion?

    • david of Kirkland says

      The issue for law is government censorship. Social opprobrium is their free speech that you disagree with. Believing those with what you consider to be horrible ideas are idiots or tyrants or leftist or whatever label be applied, that’s opprobrium from you.

  2. gabsucks says

    As always, Andrew, you fail to understand that companies have an unadulterated first amendment right to censor their own platforms as they see fit. Legislation that individuals have an unadulterated right to free speech on privately owned platforms is tantamount to government seizure of private property.

    FB/Twitter/NYT have the same first amendment right to censor Nazi content as you have to host it.

    • Indeed, but to censor content on your platform while purporting to support open discussion or free expression or advertising a service in a way that suggests you will not censor content might be regarded as the species of fraud called “false advertising”, even if the falsity is revealed in fine-print references to unspecified “community standards”.

    • Asenath Waite says

      @gabsucks

      It didn’t appear to me that he said they shouldn’t have the right to censor, just that he would choose not to censor.

    • emanations & penumbras says

      gabsucks seems to think so BECAUSE Gab won’t censor speech not to his liking. Poor gabsucks. Maybe someday he’ll realize he doesn’t have a right not to be offended.

    • And yet those platforms were granted immunity from libel lawsuits on the premise they are an open platform and do NOT censor.

      If Twitter/FB etc are going to censor political views then they should also be held responsible for libel as well.

    • ga gamba says

      FB/Twitter/NYT

      Under law, one of these is unlike the others. Do you know which one and why?

      One of these is an editor, and as an editor is may be held liable for the content it publishes.

      The other two, along with their IT cohort, lobbied for an exemption to this liability – policing their platforms would be too burdensome. Congress agreed, crafted a law that protected them some lawsuits, and added that since they are not editors their platforms were to be editorial neutral. Presently these platform have breached this agreement. The exceptions being unlawful content such as child pornography, which they were required to remove as well as create measures to identify to prevent its posting.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @gg

        You keep beating to the punch here, gamba, and I’m not happy about it. This is the second time in as many days where you’ve undercut me. At this rate, I’m quickly becoming Sancho Panza to your Don Quixote, and that’s no good for me. There’s little call nowadays for an illiterate squire, so slow down a bit.

    • ern49 says

      Isn’t that interesting and clever, using the first amendment to control the first amendment. These companies which number one, designed these sites to be addictive, two rolled these sites out as free speech sites are not your run of the mill companies and nowhere in history have private companies had the power and influence over the public, government that these have acquired. So we are dealing with a new dynamic – companies that can alter public opinion, drive national debate, manipulate elections, trigger a mob, create fake outrage, etc. on a scale never imagined in the past have made them a danger to public debate and able to influence and manipulate public policy at will. If your belief system and politics are being served by their current stance your fine with it but think when that influence switches teams which inevitably it will over time. Will you be so cavalier about it then or will you wake up to the dangers of that massive power whether in the hands of government or private enterprise being concentrated in the hands of a few denying your ability to respond in what has become the 21st century public square. These are not the private companies of the past but the Godzillas that have morphed from technological advances unforeseen and just as dangerous !!

    • peanut gallery says

      Yes, you discovered private property. I’m sure Ayn Rand would be proud. Regardless, when corporations created corporate towns that they owned privately, the government still insisted that they protect free speech in the “public spaces” that they created and owned.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Yes, though a communications platform that censors speech becomes a publisher and should be treated as such. You can’t hide behind free communications AND say what people are allowed to say (other than it being a crime).

  3. Saw file says

    @gabsucks

    This is obviously a (protracted) mission statement for the “gab” platform.

    “…you fail to understand that companies have an unadulterated first amendment right to censor their own platforms as they see fit. Legislation that individuals have an unadulterated right to free speech on privately owned platforms is tantamount to government seizure of private property.”

    Being that he expressed no such sentiment, i can only surmise that you didn’t actually read it.

    Or, was the opportunity to prove Godwin’s Law, within 10comments (or less), just too irresistible for you to pass up?

  4. Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

    I’ll check this Gab out. I belong to facebook and twitter much against my taste, but you just hafta to keep up to date with some things. If all freedom loving folks would just abandon both of them for freer platforms that would be fantastic.

  5. emanations & penumbras says

    I had Facebook and Twitter’s number right from the start, which is why I never signed up. From what I hear I’m not missing anything.

    Right now, in the same New York State legislature that just legalized infanticide, a bill in pending which would require applicants for gun permits to provide social media history and passwords. In other words, if you hold the wrong opinions you won’t get a permit. Again, another reason not to participate. No social media history, no cyber or paper trail.

    But then again, I suppose you could be denied a permit because you DON’T have such a history.

    • david of Kirkland says

      They legalized saving a woman whose life is in danger.

      • Explain the lifesaving procedure wherein a doctor has to terminate a full term, viable baby to save the mother.

        I’ll wait.

        • Marian Hennings says

          The New York law does not terminate viable pregnancies unless the mother’s life is in danger, which is the same standard that has been legal under Roe v. Wade. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about, except among those who have always hated Roe v. Wade.

  6. Num num says

    Torba gets it. I like how he points out that those targeted for censorship on the other platforms are marginalized and in need of a safe space.

    It seems to be a rule that whatever the intersectionalists are complaining about is actually what they are doing. They are building a future of institutional systemic oppression that marginalizes dissenters, allowing no safe space for dissent from intersectional orthodoxy. Whatever they frame as evil is a projection of their own objectives, it sure seems to me.

  7. K. Dershem says

    I think it’s great the Gab exists. John Stuart Mill was absolutely right about free speech: “though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.”
    However, it should be noted that even Gab has limits; Robert Bowers’ account was suspended after he (allegedly) committed a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Torba apparently accepts the principle that some views are too toxic to be amplified, but draws the line at a different place than Twitter. (Perhaps users are only banned when they commit or explicitly promote criminal actions.) Still, I strongly suspect that Gab will end up as the social media analogue of Conservapedia: a far less popular alternative to its mainstream competitor that only appeals to a subset of users who share its ideology.

    • Debbie says

      Gab adopts US First Amendment standards, which allow censorship (even criminalization!) of speech that incites violence. So, no surprise Gab might do the same.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Freedom never allows for criminal harm. You have a right to bear arms, but not a right to shoot others criminally.

  8. stripey7 says

    I’m a Marxist on Gab and I haven’t been censored. Their practice is in line with not only classical liberalism (Mill, “On Liberty”) but also libertarian Marxism (Hal Draper, “Free Speech and Political Struggle”).

    Torba misrepresents Marxism, however, by saying it’s based on rigid identity groups. Unlike intersectionality, Marxism has always emphasized that social classes are continually changing in makeup, recombining, splitting, fusing, and dissolving. This is inherent in the very idea of dialectics.

    • Tersitus says

      I’m going to throw a red flag on that one. Let’s not quibble or over the use of the term “rigid.” The prioritization of group identity over individual is obvious in both “intersectional” and Marxian discourse. Capitalist, bourgeois, petit bourgeois, proletariat, lumpenproletariat— the labels choke the literature. That’s the challenge for any Marxist analysis hoping to be anything more than “vulgar”— how to locate “sensuous human activity” (“Feuerbach 1”) within that framework, and then have that framework work — “dialectically”. In other words, how to “explain away” the individual and her apparent freedom. Calling freedom and individuality “bourgeois concepts” doesn’t cut it — it reinforces the obviousness of the problem.

      • david of Kirkland says

        Yes. Once you label a group of people, you suggest all members are “a something” without regard to the fact that the people are individuals…you put them into a group by your labeling them.

        • Tersitus says

          Yeah, d of K, it’s what the identipols wag about reflexively— they call it profiling— even as they whinge at others. Captured wonderfully in that felicitous image of Hamlet, “…hoist with his own petard.”

  9. Onaturalia says

    The misrepresentation of reality is never going to benefit people in the long term.

    • Tersitus says

      No, it’s not. Especially where it’s dominant form is self-misrepresentation.

  10. Debbie says

    I just checked out gab. I had no idea it existed. And sure enough, it really does look like “Nazi Twitter” or “Twitter for racists.”

    • Maria says

      Debbie, the labels you use say a lot about YOU, not about gab

      • Debbie says

        @Maria I quoted from the article. But, whatever.

        @Constantin good points, and I hope it plays out that way without scaring away people who value free expression but don’t necessarily want to be tagged with the site’s darker content.

    • Constantin says

      @Debbie,
      I checked it out briefly also. There are not many posts from people I would care to follow yet, but I suspect that would be normal for a start-up very libertarian when it comes to content. I guess the whole point is to find a way to attract people like me and you and make it attractive for more and more people to use.

  11. Gab will be gone soon. A terrible copy of twitter and nothing more.

  12. Mostly agree, but am also very amused that he sees something vaguely “Marxist” in a bunch of rich SJWs using identity politics to distract everyone from class politics! LOL! Some people see a red under every bed — even the beds of capitalists! LOL!

  13. “What makes it terrible? Its refusal to ban folks you don’t agree with?”

    The user experience is terrible. Pages don’t load, profiles don’t load, images are cropped poorly, navigation is atrocious, some comments can’t be reposted, and that’s just scratching the surface.

    That, on some level, is forgivable because the platform is operating with bare bones staff and limited from using certain payment processors. But a completely understandable disaster is no less a disaster in the end.

    The more insidious terribleness is that at this point, the user base is a small group of diehard #MAGA fans who are willing to grit their teeth and bear it for the ability to share alternative-mass-media thinkpieces with others who will like them. That’s social media in a nutshell, and media made social is always designed to facilitate an echo chamber.

    I’ve seen the site shift from a trending section of popular hashtags (ideal, since the same hashtag could be used for months) to both site- and user-created topics (less ideal, but still allowing dynamic interaction) to its current iteration which is focused around groups that are moderated by an administrator able to delete content from that group.

    To be clear, I’m not saying that the site has no right to design their user experience however they see fit. What I am saying is that I’ve stopped using it.

    I enjoyed the playground of ideas where even the controversial viewpoints could be discussed. I have no interest in the playpen of memes it has become.

  14. Dennis says

    Come on dude, really!

    We all know your primary responsibility is towards your company, not towards the constitution.

    And naturally, Gab will support free speech as long as doing so is profitable. And now it is profitable, because Twitter changed their rules, and there is a hole in the market.

    But when/If free speech becomes bad for the bottom line, Gab will abandon it, too
    because (surprise!) it is a business, and businesses need to make money to s t a y in business.

    Btw, there is nothing wrong with being a business, and making money. Go for it!

    But please, don’t pretend Gab would sacrifice any potential profit just for a lofty ideal.

  15. connorbehan says

    Perhaps this article can inspire an influx of users to Gab who are, for once, not sychophants of Trump. The problem isn’t just that Twitter censors. It’s that hardly anyone opposes censorship that is not affecting them at the moment. They are too shortsighted.

  16. Pingback: #gab is for nazis (mostly) https://quillette.com/2019/02/07/theres-… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊)

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