The website states, “Welcome to Gab.com. A social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online. All are welcome.”
It has become a favorite of conservatives, the alt-right and some extremists and has been criticized for hosting hate-filled, violent speech.
One of its more prolific users – Robert Bowers – regularly posted neo-Nazi propaganda and calls for violence against Jews, whom he called the “children of Satan.”
In October 2018, Bowers followed through, killing 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill.
Since then, Gab’s founder – Andrew Torba – has doubled down on his rhetoric. “We’re building a parallel Christian society because we are fed up and done with the Judeo-Bolshevik one,” he tweeted last year, using a term popularized by the Nazi Party in the 1930s. In February, Torba was a featured speaker at a white supremacist conference in Florida, where he used “great replacement” rhetoric.
So why is Torba receiving a $5,000 donation from Doug Mastriano for “campaign consulting”?
The GOP candidate for governor in the Keystone State has not distanced himself from the group. Far from it. Mastriano recently did a 16-minute interview with Torba. Now it appears he is getting new followers on the site.
Every new account currently being created on Gab automatically follows Mastriano. HuffPost created five new accounts on Thursday. Each one automatically followed the same seven accounts: those belonging to Torba, a handful of far-right media outlets, and Mastriano.
A scroll through Mastriano’s recent followers on the site shows many of them to be anonymous accounts created this month. Moreover, an archived version of his page from early April, before the campaign paid Gab, shows him with only 2,300 followers. Mastriano now has nearly 37,000.
Right after the interview, Mastriano claimed Gab and Torba “has a reach of like 4 million people, which is fantastic, and apparently about a million of them are in Pennsylvania, so we’ll have some good reach.”
Mastriano has promoted conspiracy theories related to QAnon, the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election. He was a prominent figure in Trump’s effort to overturn the results of that election, and was subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 committee over his attempts to send fake electors to Washington to deny a victory for President Joe Biden.
Media Matters contacted Torba for clarification about what exactly Mastriano paid his company to do. He replied: “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, and King? Otherwise I don’t speak to reporters who are not Christian.”
Torba did reply via email to HuffPost, but not about the fee, writing “We’re taking back this country for the glory of God and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop us. We are playing the long game and unlike most of you, we have children and thus the future belongs to us because we are raising them up with a Biblical worldview.”
“Keep writing,” Torba continued. “You’re only making us stronger and galvanizing support from the base. After six years you guys still don’t get it and it’s hilarious. Repent now and accept Jesus Christ into your heart. Every knee will bow, yours included.”