Is Gab the real deal?

I dish out a lot of hate to Facebook and Twitter on these pages. They’re advertising companies that offer users a free social media experience in exchange for all of their (and their friends’) data.

I feel uncomfortable about the amount of information these organisations are entrusted with, so I personally keep the amount I feed them to a minimum. Where possible, I prefer to maintain control of my own data.

But for those who cannot do without a social network, there are alternatives. Gab.com (formerly Gab.ai) promises to be different. Gab says it is:

A social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online. All are welcome.

But is that all Gab is; a promise to be different? I decided to have a look at its privacy policy and terms of service to find out how it differs. Here’s what I discovered:

Terms of service

  • We will use your User Content to run the App; we won’t take your User Content and sell it to others.
  • We may modify the Terms at any time, in our sole discretion.
  • You can remove your User Content by specifically deleting it. However, in certain instances, some of your User Content (such as comments or messages you make) may not be completely removed and copies of your User Content may continue to exist on the Services.

I don’t see anything too scandalous with the above. The only issue I have is that Gab can change its terms whenever it so chooses. That’s standard in these kind of agreements, but what would happen if Gab went bust? Would it be able to change its terms to allow the selling of user content? I suspect the answer is yes. Moving on:

Privacy policy

  • We use automated data collection tools to collect certain information. Some third party services providers that we engage may also track and report information about how and when you interact with our App and information about your mobile device (such as device hardware, operating system, and location).
  • We may share aggregated information and non-identifying information with third parties… Information that we collect from our users, including your email address and, if you opt to add it, a photograph or picture of you (PII), is considered to be a business asset. Thus, if we are acquired by a third party as a result of a transaction such as a merger, acquisition or asset sale or if our assets are acquired by a third party in the event we go out of business or enter bankruptcy, some or all of our assets, including your PII, may be disclosed or transferred to a third party acquirer in connection with the transaction.

The above is a bit more concerning. Gab has essentially given itself a ‘get-out’ clause, whereby it’ll be able to distribute user data to the highest bidder in the event of a change of ownership. That day may come sooner than many think: as I’m writing, Gab is still offline following the recent shootings in Pittsburgh.

“Gab has been no-platformed by essential internet infrastructure providers at every level. We are the most censored, smeared, and no-platformed startup in history, which means we are a threat to the media and to the Silicon Valley Oligarchy. 

As we transition to a new hosting provider Gab will be inaccessible for a period of time. We are working around the clock to get Gab.com back online. Thank you and remember to speak freely.”

My initial view of Gab when I first signed up last year was that it didn’t offer anything that Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t quickly solve if demanded by enough of its users. It’s essentially the same product - a centralised, trust-based model - with a right-wing hue.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for competition and innovation in the social media sector so it’s great that it exists. It’s just that I have serious doubts as to whether (in its current form) it’ll be able survive, let alone supplant the existing Facebook/Twitter hegemony.

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