Andrew Torba Discusses Defeating The Social Media Monopoly
Gab founder shares a glimpse of the inner workings of Silicon Valley's war on free speech at Restoration Weekend.
Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript to remarks given by Andrew Torba at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2017 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 16th-19th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.
Andrew Torba: How’s it going folks. As you mentioned I was here last year, and I warned you and I told you about what was going on in Silicon Valley, specifically during the election. They were censoring conservatives, censoring Trump supporters, and they’re going to continue to do so, is what I said, and that has proven to be true. So, let’s get started here. So, this is the Internet, alright? And, it’s very, very centralized, and we let this go for a long time. Four or five companies own and control all of our data, billions of trillions of dollars, and all the power, all of the control, is really just centralized into four or five hands. And, for a while we let this happen, because a lot of good things came out of this. We got innovation and technology. We got instant communication. Some of you are sitting on Facebook right now and making them money right now. But, what happened is this centralized power really became a hindrance, and it became a problem. So, what consumers have is essentially the illusion of choice.
So, the top 20 apps in the App Store are owned by about four or five companies. And, you have Facebook that owns Instagram and Messenger, and WhatsApp, and all of the top communications apps. So, the consumers think that they have choice, but they actually don’t. All of these apps are owned and controlled by one company, or two or three companies at most, and this is a problem. When they have this type of power, they can exert this power on us, and they have. For example, the Reddit CEO admitted to editing user comments that were critical of him, which probably broke Reddit’s Section 230 agreement there. Facebook workers admitted to openly censoring the trending topics product, which is used by over a billion people each and every month, and what they see as what is news and what isn’t, they openly admitted that they were censoring conservative news sources, topics, things like what James O’Keefe is doing, for example. And, this is more recent, so, Facebook is actually banning over a million accounts each and every day for hate speech, or for spam or other things as well.
And what most people don’t understand is that hate speech is completely subjective, and the answer to hate speech is not to censor and suppress it, but rather, more speech to combat it. Now, pretty much everybody that we heard speak this weekend has been impacted by this censorship of Silicon Valley. Of course, we know that Milo was banned over a year ago, and he was really kind of the tipping point for this censorship war that has since escalated over the past year. More recently, Roger Stone was just suspended, in fact, his secondary account was actually suspended again last night, and a rogue Twitter employee ended up suspending the president’s account for about 10 minutes. Now think about this. This wasn’t even actually a Twitter employee, it was actually a contractor. So, if a contractor has the ability to silence the president of the United States, imagine what they could do if they sent out one tweet, maybe something about North Korea perhaps. What would the outcome of that be?
There are some new rules that Twitter just came out with, actually, this week. So, now not only are you being held responsible for your actions on Twitter, but also off of Twitter, and again, not only your own actions, but if you follow organizations or individuals and support those people, you can also be banned or unverified from Twitter. In fact, Laura Loomer who’s here, she was unverified from Twitter this week, and they grouped her in with a bunch of white nationalists which is pretty interesting, because she’s Jewish, and she’s been calling them out and actually got one of their discord channels suspended. So, they’re trying to silence conservatives in any possible way, delegitimize conservatives, unverify them, kick them completely off the platform, and nobody was doing anything about this.
The other thing that I find very interesting that not a lot of people know is that the Democrats love to chat about foreign influence in our elections, and in our technology, and the Russians were running $100,000.00 worth of Facebook ads, and that supposedly swung an election that was a multi-billion-dollar election, right?
So, a lot of people don’t know that there’s plenty of foreign influence and foreign actors influencing our technology industry, including the Saudis who have invested billions of dollars into companies like Uber and Twitter, for example. So, I saw all of this going on. I saw the censorship continuing to rise. I saw conservatives being completely blacklisted from the Internet, shut up and censored, and had their reach decline over time, and I decided to step up and do something about it. And, I think conservatives would love to complain about the bias in media, but nobody ever actually stands up and does something about it.
So, that’s what I wanted to do. So, I’ve created this social network called Gab, and it’s very similar to Twitter. It’s a microblogging platform. And we support free First Amendment-protected legal speech. It’s not an anarchist website. We do have user guidelines, and those guidelines are inspired by First Amendment Supreme Court cases and rule of law. So, we launched in August of 2016, and we opened publicly in May of this year, and we have 300,000 users from around the world. And I thought that we could build an alternative social network on the current existing infrastructure of the web, and we’d be able to get out mobile apps, and not have any issues, and compete in the free market against Facebook, against Twitter, and against Google, but I was completely wrong.
And, what we found out is that the centralized gatekeepers of the Internet did not like the fact that we were becoming a very big threat to these established players. We were also completely bootstrapped for about a year. We were completely dependent on our users to support us and this July we opened up our very first funding round and raised a million dollars in 38 days. So, this was not from venture capitalists on Santo Road. This was not from hedge funds. This was from our people. So for the first time in social networking history, we opened up our first funding round and sold equity to our users directly. And that I’m very proud of.
And we actually became the seventh company to ever raise a million dollars through crowdfunding on the Internet, which is the maximum allowed by the FCC through Reg CF, the jobs act, one of the very few things that President Obama did in a positive way. So, our mission is really simple. We want to provide everyone with a censorship-proof protocol that champions free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online. It’s my mission in life to defend the free and open web that I grew up on for my children, and my children’s children, and yours as well.
So, this is where things got tricky. I woke up one morning, and I got an email from our domain name provider, our DNS, and they said, “You’ll have to censor this post, or we’re going to seize your domain.“ And, for those of you who don’t know, if your domain gets seized, 300,000 people are not going to be given access to the website. The website’s effectively dead. So, this has never happened before in the history of the Internet, that I know of, where a domain name provider threatened to seize our domain because of hate speech that our users were posting, not us. And, we also faced backlash from both Apple and Google.
So, Apple refuses to let our app on their app store for what they call objectionable content. Now, anybody who has been on Twitter, or Facebook, or Reddit here, knows that there is plenty of objectionable content in much higher volumes than we could even imagine at our size. And yet, they’re allowed to be on these App Stores. Google actually allowed us to be on their App Stores for about 3 months, and then one day I woke up and got an email and said, “Your app is removed for hate speech.”
So again, I thought that we could participate in free market. I thought that we could build our infrastructure on the existing centralized web, but I was wrong, because these gatekeepers refuse to let us participate, and refuse to let us innovate, like other players are allowed to do.
So, what’s the cost of fighting for free speech on the Internet? Well, these are some of the things that I’ve had to experience personally, and that my family has had to experience. I’ve been doxxed. I’ve had to move multiple times. I’ve had dozens of death threats. My family has been swatted with fake ISIS threats. The far left thinks that I’m a Nazi, and the far right thinks that I’m a Jewish plant, so there’s some kind of a interesting dichotomy there, so, this is the cross that I carry. I’m not in this for the money.
Like I said, I’m in this to defend free and open web for my kids, and for your kids, and for your grandkids, and for generations to come, but this is what it comes with. And, this is a very personal thing, and my family’s been impacted by it, but just know that this is a cross that I carry, and I’m very proud of it, and I’ll gladly bear it if it means that people are able to speak freely. So, where is this all coming from? What is causing this? Well, Germany and the EU specifically, have been pushing for hate speech laws on the entire Internet, and what they’re doing is they’re essentially blackmailing Silicon Valley, and they’re saying, “If you don’t remove hate speech posts within 24 hours, we’re going to fine you €54,000,000 per post.” Now even Facebook, with their billions of dollars in quarterly revenue could never possibly pay these type of fines, and obviously they want to continue to operate in the EU and in Germany.
So, what they’re doing is they’re enforcing these hate speech rules on the entire Internet, including on 300,000,000,000 plus Americans who have First Amendment Rights, and on the rest of the world because the EU is telling them to basically. So we believe that the solution is a peer-to-peer, censorship-proof, social media protocol, and that’s what we’re building right now.
And, I won’t get into too much of the technical details because it will probably go over everybody’s head here, but essentially, email is a protocol, meaning no one company or organization controls email. There are multiple email services like Gmail, Yahoo, etc., so we want to build a protocol for social networking and for online communication that no government, no single company, no single organization, no single actor, can stop or censor. And, we’re calling that the Exodus Protocol. We’re going to war with Silicon Valley.
This is truly going to be the people versus the elites. They are not going to allow President Trump to utilize social media and the Internet, or anybody else by the way, anyone in the populist movement that’s happening around the world right now. They’re not going to allow it to continue to happen. And if we don’t do something, if we don’t prevent this censorship from happening, if we don’t prevent these centralized gatekeepers from cracking down and deciding who can speak freely, who can build on the open internet, or at least what I thought was the open internet, then very bad things are going to happen. So, we believe it’s time for an Exodus, and I want to continue to protect the free and open web for generations to come. Thank you for your time, and enjoy the rest of the event.