WATCH: “GAB Targeted” and CEO Andrew Torba

GAB CEO Andrew Torba

With the Twitter alternative “GAB” gaining followers and in-the-news, watch my two reports where I interviewed GAB CEO Andrew Torba about how he got his start, why he left Silicon Valley, and the efforts to smear him and GAB.

Sum of All Knowledge (Part 1) Feb. 26, 2017 How secretive political, corporate and government force control the information you see on the news and online. Part 2 here (with Torba interview).

Gab Targeted: Nov. 11, 2018: After it was learned the alleged synagogue shooter used Gab, is the social media site being unfairly smeared and treated differently than giants Facebook and Twitter?

Sum of All Knowledge (Part 2)

February 26, 2017 — Sharyl: As a Donald Trump supporter, Andrew Torba felt like odd man out in California’s Silicon Valley—home of prominent tech firms like Apple, Facebook and Google.

Last year he was outraged when he attended this campaign rally in San Jose and saw violent anti-Trump protesters attacking Trump supporters.

Sharyl Attkisson: Did you post these feelings online?

Andrew Torba: Yes

Attkisson: On what?

Torba: On Facebook, on Twitter, I wrote a blog about it. And immediately without getting into any of the issues or anything I was automatically labeled a racist, a bigot, etcetera. Venture capitalists, people that I respected and had worked with on a very close level, that just wrote me off completely and blacklisted me completely.

Torba is now living in self-imposed exile in Texas fighting what he sees as growing control of information online. He’s started his own version of Twitter called “Gab.”

Attkisson: What was the idea behind it?

Torba: The idea behind it is that news, information and communication is really monopolized on the Internet by a select group of people. About four or five leaders in one of the most progressive cities in the world with some of the most progressive workers in the world. And what I saw happening as a conservative in Silicon Valley was an agenda being pushed and the conservative side and conservative ideas being suppressed.

It’s not only conservatives like Torba who believe there’s an epic struggle underway to control information. Liberals and nonpartisans also complain of censorship, bias and fake news. We’re steeped in the most intense propaganda wars since World War Two.

British propaganda film: The sign of a great fighter in the ring is, can he get up from the floor after being knocked down. London does this every morning.

That’s when the Nazis and the Allies fought for their citizens’ hearts and mindsdevising propaganda campaigns to demoralize the enemy.

Nazi propaganda film: {Hitler speaks in German.}

Today’s battleground in the information wars – TV and the Web. Islamic extremist terrorists openly recruit online.

Isis Propaganda video: We are men honored with Islam who climbed its peaks to Jihad answering the call to unite under one flag.

And U.S. officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin exploited state-controlled TV news to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Russian TV: Polls nationwide show that the majority of Americans don’t trust Hillary Clinton.

Covert warfare is also widely being waged by US political and corporate actors.

Attkisson: When people get online every day and take part in social media or do searches for news, what is it you think they don’t know?

Matthew Brown: I don’t think they know they’re being manipulated.

Matthew Brown is a data analyst who pierces the secrecy behind paid efforts to influence online.

Attkisson: What areas of the Internet are used to shape and manipulate opinion?

Matthew Brown: Everywhere social. Everywhere social means specific Facebook pages, but it also means the comment sections in every major newspaper.

Brown began investigating after his health insurance costs tripled and he commented about it on the Obamacare Facebook page. He got bombarded, he says, by digital activists disguised as ordinary people.

Brown: Digital activists are paid employees; their purpose is to attack anyone who’s posting something contrary to the view the page owner wants expressed.

Brown decided to use analysis software to crunch the numbers. He evaluated 226,000 pro-Obamacare posts made by 40,000 Facebook profiles. What he found was remarkable.

Brown: 60 percent of all the posts were made from 100 profiles, posting between the hours of 9 and 5 Pacific Time.

Attkisson: Which means what?

Matthew Brown: They were paid to post.

Brown says it’s rampant on social media. One popular tool: “zombie profiles” that make automated “robo” posts.

Brown: A zombie post is a fake, purchased, or rented Facebook profile that’s expressing the views of an organization as if it was his or her own. But, when in reality, the comment being expressed is done on software and written by generally one or two people. So, the zombie posts will go out on a schedule and then they are supported by zombie likes.

Attkisson: Is there any reason to believe Republicans don’t do the same thing, and corporations as well?

Brown: There’s no reason to believe that everybody’s not doing it.

Even the government is in the game. Leaked emails show the feds seeking “persona management” software to “allow 10 personas per user.” They talk of creating an “army” of fake social media profiles maintained by actors “gaming” to hide their true location, and using “tricks” to “add a level of realnessto all fictitious personas.”

Campaign 2016 brought higher stakes and a new name to internet efforts to manipulate public opinion: Fake News. Unsubstantiated rumors about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton went viral.

There was Pizzagate, which claimed Clinton associates were running a child sex ring from a pizza parlor. Trump was accused in a case of child rape.

In October, President Obama unveiled a push to “curate” the news.

President Obama: We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to.

The news media quickly joined the President’s call. After a man motivated by Pizzagate rumors fired a gun in the pizza parlor, Clinton added her voice to the cause.

Hillary Clinton: It is now clear that so-called fake news can have real words consequences. This is not about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk, lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It’s a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.

Facebook announced an initiative to stop fake news. The head of the left wing group Media Matters told donors the group played a “critical role” “in forcing Facebook’s hand. But the fix involved using fact checkers that many conservatives see as biased.

Conservatives point to fake news in the mainstream media like the false report claiming Trump had removed a bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King from the White House.

President Trump: Zeke, from Time magazine, writes a story about, I took down — I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is.

GAB Targeted

Nov. 11, 2018: Before eleven people were murdered at a Pittsburgh synagogue last month, the alleged killer posted on the social media site “Gab.” He criticized a Jewish nonprofit and wrote, “I’m going in.” That post has put Gab, a conservative alternative to Twitter and Facebook, in the crosshairs. Today, we hear from GAB founder Andrew Torba.

Sharyl: How do you feel knowing that even though you consider yourself a platform for free speech of all kinds, that people liked the alleged synagogue killer use and congregate on your site?

Torba: I was horrified when I found out that he was on the site and uh, I was heartbroken. I’d been heartbroken for two weeks now. I’ve been praying for the families and I think that this experience has fundamentally changed me as a human being.

Sharyl: We first interviewed Gab founder Andrew Torba last year for this report on media censorship. Torba claims Twitter censors conservatives but not liberals for certain behavior. On Gab, “anything goes,” he says. As long as it’s legal, not inciting violence, and not exposing information like credit cards. Because of Gab’s anti-censorship policy, it’s attracted plenty of detestable users. Some blogs call it “Twitter for Racists,” and the “Alt-Right’s very own Twitter.”

Sharyl: how did you first learn that the alleged synagogue killer had a Gab account and had used Gab?

Torba: One of our users ran a search and discover his account and immediately notified us within that same hour. We took a snapshot of our database and preserved all the data, immediately suspended his account and I picked up the phone and I called the FBI and willingly handed over that data without a warrant or a subpoena or anything like that.

Sharyl: What happened to you and to Gab once Gab was tied to the alleged shooter?

Torba: . Well, I think the media ran one of the most coordinated smear campaigns against myself, my family, our business, and our community of over 800,000 people from around the world. They put my photo up next to this alleged terrorist. Uh, my family’s home was broadcast on the local news. We received threats of violence. Anyone who had a Gab account was attacked and smeared. And I think it’s really disgusting because if you look at Facebook, you look at Twitter, you look at any of these big social networks, Twitter has over 300,000 ISIS accounts that they’ve removed over the past couple of years. They also had the alleged mail bomber from a few weeks ago that was on their platform making direct threats of violence to media personalities. And other people on Twitter actually reviewed these posts and found that they were not violating their terms of service. Whereas on our platform, we have a zero tolerance policy for threats and violence and proactively removed that stuff.

Sharyl: If you have a zero tolerance for threats of violence – how did the synagogue – the alleged killer slip through?

Torba: Well, I don’t think that he was actually making any direct threats of violence. You know, the last post that he made about four minutes before he went in and committed this horrific tragedy where allegedly was “I’m going in,” right? It wasn’t “I’m going to go shoot up the place,” or anything like that. It wasn’t a direct threat.

Sharyl: Why isn’t it reasonable to say that a site where hateful people, even criminals and killers collect, shouldn’t be allowed to exist?

Torba: Well, because hateful people exist in the world and they’re on Facebook, they’re on Twitter, they’re on the entire Internet. And I think that the best answer to hate speech or to bad speech is always going to be more speech. If you push these people off into the shadows, they’re just going to go to their local bar and plan violence, and if they can’t express themselves through words then I fundamentally believe that they’re going to express themselves inevitably through violence, which no one wants.

Sharyl: One article that criticized you said that you quote “spent years recruiting racists,” like yourself on Gab. Gab is only going, I think about two years or so but are you, and is your site racist?

Torba: I’m not racist. I am a classical liberal. I am a Christian man. I am an American nationalist. I’m not a white nationalist. I think there’s a difference. And all are welcome on Gab. So certainly when people were being no-platformed, banned, suspended, removed, shadow-banned from these other platforms, of course we welcome them on Gab as long as they followed our user guidelines, as long as they weren’t breaking the law, they were welcome. I think we have a responsibility to be proactive to make sure that extremism, as I define it, you know, threats of violence, doxxing, intimidation, terrorizing people has no home on Gab.

Torba says he’s cooperated with DOJ on synagogue shooting, immediately turning over material without asking for a subpoena.

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