On Monday, federal prosecutors announced the arrest of a Pennsylvania man for allegedly threatening on Gab to kill Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents.
Gab users are apoplectic. They feel betrayed by the far-right platform and its founder Andrew Torba, who often touts his commitment to “free speech,” and has no qualms with Gab being a haven for racists and other extremists.
According to the arrest affidavit, upon request, Gab gave the FBI records including a user’s email, IP addresses, and chat logs. The FBI then used this information to identify Adam Bies of Mercer, Pennsylvania.
Bies is allegedly among the many people who took to social media to agitate against the FBI over its search of former President Donald Trump’s residence in Florida last week. The complaint asserts that he posted numerous threats against the FBI such as, “My only goal is to kill more of them before I drop,” and “If you work for the FBI then you deserve to die.”
It’s not known whether Bies has issued a plea in the case.
News of Gab cooperating with the feds launched a volley of angry posts on the platform. People likened Torba to Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, and accused Gab of betraying its users and commitment to free speech.
Many take particular issue with Torba cooperating with the feds without a subpoena. According to the arrest affidavit, Gab handed over the chat logs and other identifying information upon request that led to Bies’ arrest
Gab users insist that Torba should’ve withheld the records. “There’s no charitable way to say this: Andrew Torba voluntarily helped the feds snatch up one of his users when he could’ve just said no,” asserts a copypasta circulating on the platform.
The same post says that Torba should force federal officials to take him to court before he turns over user records “even if it means doubling subscription costs just to pay for counsel.”
“Sorry but Gab is losing the free speech mantra and most people don’t know it yet,” wrote @TrumpkinsBakery.
Torba addressed the controversy around midnight on Monday. He offered no apology for cooperating with the FBI and placed the onus on his subscribers to comply with the law.
Torba wrote that “a few” of the people who use Gab are “foolish enough to do something illegal—at which point we get served with court orders, warrants, etc.”
He then criticized those who make violent threats. “If you’re just trying to let off some steam, threatening anyone—federal agent or not—is not the right way to do it,” he wrote.
Torba also insisted that Gab has been consistent about its commitment to “lawful speech and lawful speech only.”
“I care deeply about all of you and I do my best to protect this community and the public at large from both external and internal threats,” he added.
Some people accepted this explanation. Many still have lose faith in Gab.
A few were defiant, not just towards Gab, but to the FBI. “You make it seem like I don’t want a 3am no knock raid,” wrote @NordAwoken.
A subscriber who goes by @Glitch posted a screenshot of a post they say Gab flagged yesterday for advocating violence. It says, “Burn it all to the ground. Eat the rich. Hang pedos, globalists, communists, and satanists.”
“What is this bullshit? I never made any threats. So now ‘advocating violence’ is suddenly also included? I’ve been saying such sentences since I signed up here. Why now all a sudden is it a big deal?” @Glitch said.
@Glitch claims Gab is becoming more like Facebook and Instagram.
“Andrew rolled. He cucked out like they always do,” @Glitch added.
Some of Torba’s subscribers now feel like Gab is working hand in glove with law enforcement.
“So basically this is just one big honeypot,” said one exasperated user.
Torba is apparently unmoved by such criticisms.
“People who threaten to murder people on the internet are not my ‘pals,'” he wrote.