PITTSBURGH — Robert Bowers, the man accused of killing 11 people and injuring six others Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue, frequently shared anti-Semitic posts on a website called Gab, multiple news outlets are reporting.
The social network, launched in 2016 by Andrew Torba and Ekrem Büyükkaya, claims to support "free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online," its homepage says.
But according to Cox Media Group Washington Insider Jamie Dupree, Gab "is a more conservative type of Twitter site which often bristles with conspiracy theories." Reuters reported that the website is popular with "alt-right activists and white nationalists whose views are unwelcome or banned on other social media platforms."
Dupree reported that shortly before the shooting, Bowers criticized the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a nonprofit organization that helps refugees, claiming it "likes to bring invaders in that kill our people."
"I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered," Bowers' post continued. "Screw your optics, I'm going in."
In a statement Saturday, Gab acknowledged that the suspected shooter had an account on its platform.
"Shortly after the attack, Gab was alerted to a user profile of the alleged Tree of Life Synagogue shooter," the statement read. "The account was verified and matched the name of the alleged shooter's name, which was mentioned on police scanners. This person also had accounts on other social networks."
The statement continued: "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."
The website said it has "zero tolerance" for terroristic threats or violence.
"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 statement read.
The company also took aim at critical media coverage.
"We refuse to be defined by the media's narratives about Gab and our community," the statement said, adding that "criminals and criminal behavior exist on every social media platform."
But other tech companies didn’t appear to buy Gab’s defense.
In the wake of Saturday's mass shooting, PayPal canceled Gab's account, The Associated Press reported.
"When a site is explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action," PayPal spokesman Justin Higgs told the AP in an email.
Additionally, long before the shooting, Apple and Google removed Gab from its app stores over alleged hate speech by its users, Reuters reported. In August, Microsoft also threatened to cancel the site's hosting "over two anti-Semitic posts" that were later deleted, according to The Verge.
Cox Media Group