BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media. I’m Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. To the founders and users of the social media platform called Gab, Google and Twitter are the imperious masters of a left-wing social web that imperils our freedom of speech. Gab’s a year-old platform that resembles Twitter or Reddit but with a Pepe, the Frog lookalike logo and a far-right reputation. Our brief visit to Gab suggests that it serves a wide range of users. We exchanged welcoming and illuminating tweets with many of them, extolling its freewheeling chat. We also received some racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs. In fact, I'll quote one such tweet in the interview, so be warned. And certainly, Gab is better known for hosting neo-Nazis, anti-PC provocateurs and other nihilistic trolls.
On August 17th, Google cited Gabs’ lax moderation policies and hateful content when it ejected Gab from the Android app store, nor can it be found on the Apple app store. Utsav Sanduja is the chief operating officer of Gab. Welcome to On the Media.
UTSAV SANDUJA: Thank you, appreciate it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Did I characterize Gab correctly, at least in the public eye?
UTSAV SANDUJA: With all due respect, we notice that this is primarily perceived by very ardent politically-correct individuals --
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm.
UTSAV SANDUJA: -- and outlets. The mainstream public at large sees us much more nuanced than that. We are a company that is about ensuring that freedom of speech is protected on the internet because Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the rest have not. We do not work with venture capitalists, big advertisers or take corporate or government subsidies.
The other thing about Gab, this frog is actually not even close to looking like Pepe. The frog's name is Gabby and Gabby is symbolic of the plague of the frogs that we are releasing on Silicon Valley. Andrew Torba, our CEO, is a very ardent Protestant Christian, and for him it was about seeing all the injustice in Silicon Valley, where conservatives were being persecuted, libertarians being persecuted. And he wanted to essentially fight back, and the frog is emblematic of that spirit.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let's talk about your suit against Google.
UTSAV SANDUJA: Sure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I have a sense of your passion because you wrote on Gab, “Hey, Google, go F yourself.” What is the basis of your lawsuit --
UTSAV SANDUJA: Sure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: -- because the First Amendment only protects a person from censorship against the government.
UTSAV SANDUJA: Our lawsuit is not actually based on the First Amendment. Our lawsuit’s based on antitrust, anticompetitive behavior.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm.
UTSAV SANDUJA: It is based on Section 230.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Of the Communications Act?
UTSAV SANDUJA: Correct, which prevents social media sites from being responsible for the content of the users. For Google to hold us to the content of other users on our site is insane. It’s completely a ridiculous proposition.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The Daily Stormer, which I think we can agree is an explicit anti-Semitic racist site, has had trouble finding a digital home in recent times, as have other purveyors of hate, and they're seeking help from something called the Free Speech Alliance. There was a great piece in Slate recently that explained an effort by the alt-right to build basically a kind of alternative internet, a, a series of social media platforms, their own domains, and so on. Would you tell me what it is?
UTSAV SANDUJA: Sure. So, I think we can agree that The Daily Stormer is a very provocative organization. Whether or not --
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I think we can go further than that, can’t we?
UTSAV SANDUJA: I don’t think so because I personally --
BROOKE GLADSTONE: He talks about slaughtering the non-Aryan hordes.
UTSAV SANDUJA: Okay, okay. There’s content on Facebook and there’s content on Twitter where ISIS regularly talks of beheading people, and their materials are never taken down.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: They are taken down but comparing --
UTSAV SANDUJA: Sure, they are.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: -- The Daily Stormer to ISIS --
UTSAV SANDUJA: That’s why this --
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I will agree that they are both hate sites.
UTSAV SANDUJA: I don’t know what this -- okay. Ins -- instead of getting debates on politics, let’s get to the heart of this question.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay.
UTSAV SANDUJA: The Alt-Tech Alliance is a organization that has over 100-plus engineers, most of them in Silicon Valley tech companies. These engineers are working in building a decentralized red system that is free from the corruption of Google, the corruption of Apple and SJW politics.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What’s SJW?
UTSAV SANDUJA: Social Justice Warrior.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Oh.
UTSAV SANDUJA: It also enfranchises individual users to be free from payment transaction companies, like PayPal, which is very corrupt, and other institutions that refuse to do business simply because they disagree with your political speech. We want to see a world where free discourse can exist, and that includes skepticism towards cultural Marxism, skepticism towards this egalitarianism on steroids, skepticism towards questioning whether or not certain accepted, say, for example, postmodernism should be allowed in society. We want to allow people to exercise lawful speech without big corporations, big advertisers and government agencies putting their fingers in.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I went through the responses to Jon Hanarhan’s, our producer’s, request for information on the site, and we had quite a few people who tried to explain why they were on the site, expressing their desire to engage, that they felt a greater sense of freedom on the site. We also had a lot of words that I can't use on the radio. One of the less polite responses we got was, please say 1488 and GTKRWN to @BrookeGladstone for me, with lots of the parentheses around my name. I had to look that stuff up ‘cause I don't know the code: 14 refers to the words “the beauty of the White Aryan woman will not perish from the earth,” 88 means “Heil Hitler,” GTKRWN means Gas The Kikes -- Race War Now.” Is it really all that important for you to defend this kind of speech?
UTSAV SANDUJA: We don’t defend that kind of speech. We defend the First Amendment. The Supreme Court made very clear in a unanimous decision that all speech, including hate speech, is protected speech. The left lectures us all the time. I remember this in the ‘90s during the cultural wars, oh, everyone’s morality is different, hate is bad, love is good, yada-yada nonsense. I remember this with the whole gay marriage debacle.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm.
UTSAV SANDUJA: And I remember how the right was demonized that their morality should not interfere in common affairs of the public. Now the left sanctimoniously, condescendingly tells us what proper morality is. I, I don't think so. If you want a fair and just society, either you allow all types of morality to be heard or you have a morality-free state. The fact that [LAUGHS] the left is preaching their morality against everyone else, shoving it down their throats, is unacceptable. And what you’re just gonna end up doing is creating a lot of -- hate.
Now, speaking of that post, that is unfortunate that occurred, but I’m not gonna virtue signal here and suggest to you that, okay, you know, this speech is so bad, therefore, now let’s go ban it, no. A simple answer to this: Hate speech can be combatted with other speech, not through dictatorship, not through coercion.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, you’re using the First Amendment to mean free speech because the First Amendment does not protect people against corporations, only against the government, unless you truly believe that Google is somehow an explicit arm of the government.
UTSAV SANDUJA: Yes, they are, absolutely they are. Google and Apple are key infrastructures of civil society, just like the railway, just like oil companies, just like other major institutions, and they need to be regulated as the public monopolies they are. And that is why we are urging members of Congress to get on the ball and start regulating companies that do not allow the rights of everyday Americans, while having so much power over everyday society.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: All right, thank you very much.
UTSAV SANDUJA: Thank you for your time.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Utsav Sanduja is the chief operating officer of Gab.