PHOENIX — Horrific acts of violence, hate speech and the First Amendment. The nation is mourning the loss of 11 people gunned down inside a Pittsburgh synagogue this weekend by a suspected white nationalist.
The suspect, Robert Bower, made anti-Semitic posts on the social media site Gab.
The site promotes itself as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter, with looser guidelines on what can be posted. The site has attracted profiles from far-right celebrities like Ann Coulter.
Despite some failings, Facebook and Twitter have stricter guidelines on what can be posted.
The extra leeway provided an avenue for Robert Bower. An archived version of his page showing anti-Semitic posts. His profile bio stated, “Jews are the children of Satan.”
Minutes before killing 11 people in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Bower posted, "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."
“What Gab says is, 'Come over here and we are not going to censor you,'" said Dan Barr, a lawyer with Perkins-Coie who focuses on First Amendment law. “People have the right to post hateful things; people have the right to read hateful things.”
According to Barr, Bower did not violate the law when it came to his posts. However, the site Gab is now facing a backlash. Many of the companies who allow Gab to be online said they will no longer host the site.
The website has a post up from the CEO defending the site, saying in part that it is, "the home of free speech online at a time when Silicon Valley is stifling political speech they disagree with to interfere in a US election."
The anti-defamation league is reporting a 57-percent rise in attacks against the Jewish community in the U.S. in 2017, the biggest increase in its history.