ONE STEP AT A TIME
Google Deals New Blow to Alt-Right Social Network Gab
Google and Mozilla have taken aim at Gab’s ‘Dissenter,’ an internet-wide comment section.
Google and Mozilla banned a browser extension made by the social network Gab on Thursday, dealing another blow to the racist alt-right’s favorite social platform.
The new bans target Dissenter, a browser extension created by Gab that adds a parallel comment section to any web page on the internet. The decision from the two tech companies makes it harder for people to add Dissenter to their browsers.
The extension allowed Gab commenters to avoid moderation on the website’s usual comment sections, leaving their posts instead on a separate overlay visible to anyone with the Dissenter plug-in installed in Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox. As a result, Dissenter comments often featured the same discussions popular with Gab’s far-right user base: fervent support for Trump and Gamergate-style complaints over perceived “social justice warrior” infiltration of various video games and movies by liberals.
In a statement, a Mozilla spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Dissenter had violated Mozilla’s rules against hate speech.
“Mozilla does not endorse hate speech and we do not permit our platforms to be used to promote such content,” the statement reads.
Gab founder Andrew Torba said in a statement that Dissenter had been blocked by tech companies that “want to destroy free expression online.” In response to the bans that make it harder to install Dissenter on mainstream browsers, Torba claims that Gab will now be launching its own browser as well.
Google didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Mozilla and Google reportedly banned Dissenter ahead of a story from the Columbia Journalism Review about the browser extension. The Dissenter comment section on that CJR story quickly filled up with angry users who blamed the story’s authors for the bans.
Torba himself appeared in the Dissenter posts, denouncing one expert quoted in the story as “pure SOY”—a reference to the fringe belief that eating soy makes men feminine.
Gab has already lost the services of PayPal, GoDaddy, and a number of other tech companies after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers allegedly used the social network to announce his plans. In March, Torba claims, Gab was even kicked off the crowdfunding site that it had used to raise roughly $2 million.
Torba launched Dissenter in February in an attempt to create a “free speech comment section for the internet.” Gab claimed on Thursday that Dissenter has more than 85,000 users—although the platform’s user base figures have been repeatedly questioned by critics.
The bans from Google and Mozilla now put Dissenter’s user growth, whatever the actual figure is, in doubt. While Chrome and Firefox users can still install the extension through the Dissenter site, they have to go through a complicated, lengthy process that requires downloading Dissenter’s code and attempting to set it up themselves.
Before the bans, by contrast, Dissenter users could easily install it through Chrome or Mozilla add-on stores.