New report analyzes dynamics on alt-platform Gab
Gab was founded in 2016 as an uncensored alternative to mainstream social media platforms. Stanford Internet Observatory’s latest report looks at behaviors and dynamics across the platform.
While sites such as Parler and Gettr generally cater to a broader base of right-wing users, the far-right platform Gab hews more toward an openly white Christian nationalist demographic. Founded in 2016, Gab has spent most of its existence on the toxic fringe of alternative social media platforms — something exacerbated by its links to the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and its fraught relationship with various app stores and service providers.
However, our analysis found that the events of January 6, 2021 and the subsequent downtime of Parler and suspensions of high-profile right-wing accounts on Twitter and Facebook caused a massive spike in new users and income for Gab. This appears to have been a lifeline for the platform, which had previously had stagnant user growth and increasing monetary losses; it resulted in thousands of new "Pro" subscriptions and donations, and user activity increased dramatically. This in turn allowed Gab to use its new income to fund real-world activities such as the white nationalist AFPAC conference.
This in-depth analysis of Gab raises questions about the knock-on effects of content moderation and deplatforming, and the balance between keeping mainstream communities safe and creating incubators for extremists. Some of the findings in this analysis include:
The deplatforming events following January 6 were a huge boost to Gab, and may have resulted in millions of dollars of income for Gab, potentially keeping it solvent.
While previous research has indicated that Gab was not a significant force for organizing real-world activities, in 2021 and 2022 it had significant growth in anti-vaccine protest organizing, with "trucker convoy" groups having tens of thousands of members and high post volume.
Extreme anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic content is rife, with open praise of Nazism, encouragement of violence against minorities, and "Great Replacement" narratives. Many of the memes cited by the Buffalo shooter's manifesto are indistinguishable from content on Gab, and such content appears even in "mainstream" user groups.
Gab contains much of the same toxic content as "purpose-built" neo-Nazi sites such as Stormfront, but companies such as Cloudflare and Epik — who refused service to Stormfront — continue to provide Gab with services.