No, alt-right social network Gab isn’t based in Philly (anymore)

According to WeWork, the social media platform rented a Center City space for one month in 2018.

Pittsburghers gathered for a vigil after the Oct. 27 shooting at Tree of Life synagogue

Pittsburghers gathered for a vigil after the Oct. 27 shooting at Tree of Life synagogue

Lexi Belculfine / The Incline
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Updated 6:28 p.m.

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh massacre, national scrutiny has intensified for Gab, the Twitter-like social media network where suspected gunman Robert Bowers freely posted his anti-Semitic views prior to killing 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday.

By now, you may have heard that Gab claims to be the “home of the free speech on the internet.” You may have heard that it has become the de facto safe space for white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right. You may have even heard that it’s based in Philadelphia…wait, what?

National outlets from Newsweek to Bloomberg have recently reported this claim, citing the two-year-old company’s most recent SEC filing from March. Gab’s Wikipedia page states as much, too. On Monday morning, Philly’s local WHYY even reported that the startup is currently based at 1900 Market St. in Center City. (Update: WHYY has since updated their article with a correction.)

The facts: Gab used to be based in Philly — but it’s not anymore.

Gab’s founder and CEO Andrew Torba briefly operated out of WeWork’s coworking space at 19th and Market earlier this year, and listed that address as the company’s headquarters. But no one at WeWork has seen Torba since April of this year, and it’s unclear where the company is based now.

When Gab was in Philly, and where it is now

Torba, a conservative programmer, founded Gab in 2016 as an indictment of political correctness and what he saw as the censorship of right-wing views on popular social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.

The reality, however, is that Gab quickly become an incubator for white supremacists and neo-Nazis who were banned from promoting hate speech on other platforms. The company’s logo, a cartoonish green frog, bears striking similarity to the Pepe meme appropriated by the American far right. 

Long before the Pittsburgh shooting this weekend, the company faced public backlash for providing a platform for white supremacy. Even so, the company needed a place to call home.

Torba is a Scanton native, he wrote on Medium in 2014, who relocated to Silicon Valley’s tech scene for several years before launching Gab.

A screenshot of suspect gunman Robert Bowers' last post on Gab prior to the Pittsburgh synagogue rampage

A screenshot of suspected gunman Robert Bowers' last post on Gab prior to the Pittsburgh synagogue rampage

Associated Press

For a short period this year, Torba apparently operated Gab out of a WeWork space in an office building at 19th and Market Streets.

Brandywine Realty Trust, which owns 1900 Market St., told Billy Penn that it never directly leased space to the company known as Gab.

“Based on our initial investigation, Gab AI’s link to 1900 Market is through one of our tenants, WeWork, whose business model is to provide third parties with deskspace and internet access in common areas,” Brandywine wrote in a statement. “WeWork provided such common area deskspace to Gab AI from March 2018 to April 2018. According to WeWork, the group is not currently a member at 1900 Market Street or at any other WeWork locations.”

However, Gab appears to have claimed the same address long before the specified one-month time frame. In a September 2017 lawsuit filed against Google, the company lists 1900 Market Street as its headquarters. We reached out to WeWork about the discrepancy and will update with new info as it becomes available.

A WeWork spokesperson told the Inquirer on Sunday that Torba — under his name, not the company’s — had briefly been at their 1900 Market workspace. WeWork declined to comment on how (if at all) it performs background checks on persons and companies before allowing them to become members.

A Gab spokesperson also confirmed to the Inquirer that the company is no longer based in Philly, but wouldn’t elaborate further.

The growing list of Gab-free zones

In the last 48 hours, the list of tech companies who have given Gab the boot has expanded rather quickly. Prior to the shooting, both Apple and Google refused to peddle the channel’s app to their users.

“We are the most censored, smeared, and no-platformed startup in history, which means we are a threat to the media and to the Silicon Valley Oligarchy,” Torba wrote on the website’s currently inoperable homepage.

Gab is now using its company Twitter account to post screenshots to confirm its severed ties with various companies, often calling their developers “pathetic.”

  • PayPal: The e-payment company says it has terminated its user agreement with Gab, citing hate speech, per The Verge.
  • Stripe: Another e-payment company kicked Gab to the curb Monday night, Gab confirmed in Twitter.
  • GoDaddy: The domain registry site suspended Gab.com as of Monday, citing “numerous instances of content on [Gab’s] site that both promotes and encourages violence against people.”
  • Medium: Torba has long used the online publishing platform to spread Gab-related news, from the company’s 2016 launch announcement to its recent response to the Pittsburgh shooting. Links to some of these posts are no longer functional.
  • Joyent: The cloud hosting service gave Gab until 9 a.m. Monday to find an alternate host. “Gab will likely be down for weeks because of this,” Gab wrote on Twitter.
  • Shopify: Merchandise like branded clothing, stickers, accessories and “collectors items” were offered via an online store powered by this ecommerce provider until Gab’s account was terminated Monday afternoon.