A social media company is defending itself after it appeared that the suspect in Saturday's shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which reports say left 11 dead, was active on the platform.
The website Gab.com, which describes itself as “The Home Of Free Speech Online,” rejected claims it was responsible for the shooting after it confirmed that the name identified in media reports as the suspect matched the name on an account on its platform.
“Gab.com’s policy on terrorism and violence have always been very clear: we [have] zero tolerance for it. Gab unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence. This has always been our policy. We are saddened and disgusted by the news of violence in Pittsburgh and are keeping the families and friends of all victims in our thoughts and prayers,” the website said in a statement.
“Gab took swift and proactive action to contact law enforcement immediately. We first backed up all user data from the account and then proceeded to suspend the account. We then contacted the FBI and made them aware of this account and the user data in our possession. We are ready and willing to work with law enforcement to see to it that justice is served,” it added.
The suspected shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, posted on his Gab page that “jews are the children of satan.”
He also reportedly shouted “all Jews must die” before he opened fire Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
The website noted that Bowers posted accounts on other social media platforms.
“We refuse to be defined by the media’s narratives about Gab and our community. Gab’s mission is very simple: to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people. Social media often brings out the best and the worst of humanity. From live streamed murders on Facebook, to threats of violence by bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc Jr. that went unaddressed by Twitter, and more. Criminals and criminal behavior exist on every social media platform,” it said in the statement.
“Question: where is the statement from Facebook and others where he had an account? Gab acted swiftly and immediately. We reached out to the FBI before they even knew he had an account. We instantly sent both the FBI and the US DOJ the data,” the website added in a tweet.
Gab has long had to defend itself from claims that its platform allowed hate speech as white supremacists have been banned from other websites.
"It's a very horrific crime scene; One of the worst that I've seen," Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said at a press conference, adding that the FBI is taking over the investigation. Federal investigators are reportedly treating the attack as a potential hate crime.