Free Speech Abroad: An Interview with the COO and Global Affairs Director of Gab, Utsav Sanduja

The Twitter rival Gab is rather unknown outside the bursts of reporting that claim that the site supports white nationalism after hosting personalities such as Richard Spencer or Andrew Anglin, controversial figures of the white nationalist movement, on the platform.

More recently, Google Play and Apple have both banned Gab from their app stores due to supposed violations of hate speech policies.

However, information about the usage of Gab abroad is sparse. I reached out to Gab and spoke with their Chief Communications Officer and Global Affairs Director, Utsav Sanduja about Gab’s international use and a few other topics.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What is the main reason you decided to work at Gab?

US: The main reason I decided to work for Gab was simply that there’s been a lot of censorship around the world. I saw quite a lot of people in the European Union being censored for simply criticizing the entire migrant crisis issue. I saw, for instance, lots of double standards on social media. […] I come from an international relations journalism background, and I worked in many countries in the world, and I do really see the value of human rights and the rights of users to speak freely.

Q: How do you feel about American establishment media’s reporting on Gab?

US: American media in particular is pretty fixated on politics and bashing us for supposed “hate speech,” Nazism, and crazy conspiracy theories. It’s very interesting because you see such a mix amongst media sites, predominantly notable SJW [social justice warrior] or left-wing news organizations like the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and their relationship with social media at large. You see a nexus that revolves between journalists and with people working at Facebook, and the Hillary Clinton campaign–so it’s really corrupt. Silicon Valley, the journalism industry–it’s filled with a lot of bias.

Q: So for alt-tech–I’m just going to use that term for better or worse to describe these companies. Is there anything like that outside the USA?

US: Outside the United States, in terms of alt-tech, we are seeing different cryptocurrencies and decentralized monetary systems being developed. But whether they’re called alt-tech is to be seen. But we’ve seen it in a Canadian company called Kik which is one of the first companies in the world to invent a cryptocurrency and digital anonymity… I’m not sure that would be considered alt-tech, but they’re certainly not what you’d say is the mainstream. […] We had seen, for example, people from Make Europe Great Again developing their own social media sites. There is a quite a lot of skepticism towards Apple and Google in the Chinese market, where you’re seeing Chinese entrepreneurs creating their own mobile phones and software that are in clear competition with Silicon Valley… […] Again, I’m not sure you’d classify that as alt-tech, but certainly, it’s really interesting to see this.

Q: Has Gab run into trouble with governments outside the United States?

US: We had Angela Merkel reach out to us and let us know about their laws pertaining to hate speech. They wanted social media sites to ban fake news, ban hate speech, come into enforcement in regards to curation… Here’s our response to the German Government, Gab is not based in Germany or the European Union. The German government has zero jurisdiction over us. […] [W]e have helped free speech voice activists like the AfD, UKIP in Britain, or National Front in France, and given the ability for them to criticize their governments, criticize policies being brought forward. A lot of these political parties have been successful in getting their message out on Gab, as opposed to Twitter and Facebook, on which they have been flagged with hate speech and fake news.

For Gab, we’re not about helping the far-right as it is proverbially known, or I think pejoratively known. We’re really about allowing free-speech-minded individuals, organizations, groups, and companies the right to speak. We want them to be enfranchised, we want them to be empowered, and we are not a left-wing or right-wing movement. We are simply an anti-establishment populist movement.

Q: How has Gab incorporated technology differently than twitter to make a stronger experience or to enforce free speech better?

US: First and foremost Gab does not have any advertisements on it, full stop. […] We do not take any money from venture capitalists, or major corporations and so that has ensured the editorial independence of our user base, and it’s prevented from certain voices from being discouraged or flushed out. It adds to the experience, it adds to the quality of the site, in which all you see is user driven content. The second thing we have done is months before Twitter launched its mute policy, Gab already had that on the day one… Third thing is, we have a prohibition on spam, on spybots, on malware bots, on people repeatedly trying to post a link. We actually curtail and crack down on all these things.

Another thing that makes Gab interesting and unique, and this may provocative to, say and is the truth, is we never had any incident of child pornography, ISIS propaganda, narcotics and weapons trading on our site. Whereas Snapchat has had this, where it was reported widely by the Washington Post last year how Al-Nusra Front was selling arms on Snapchat. […] So when you look to the degree of what is against morally acceptable and deplorable, Gab is nowhere even close to what the disgusting filth you see on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. We know the priorities of these companies. They’re very predominantly SJW, very far-left, and they come from a very globalist, cosmopolitan background. They’re more interested in speech curation and speech content restrictions than actually serving the public interest–like wiping out porn, cracking down on terrorism, terror financing, or even stopping racist groups like Black Lives Matter.

 

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