As Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks have moved to clamp down on hateful content, neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers have increasingly migrated to alternate platforms that do not police their postings. That gab.ai, one of these top anti-Semitic hubs, happens to have the same name as a traditional position of Jewish authority is one of the universe’s more ironic coincidences.
Or is it? Some of its users are asking questions.
Gab was ostensibly founded in 2016 as an alternative to Twitter by CEO Andrew Torba, who vowed that it would defend “free speech.” In practice, that has meant making the platform a haven for anti-Jewish, anti-black, anti-Muslim, and other bigoted material, leading to its banning from places like the Google and Apple app stores. But as gab.ai’s own users have begun to realize, this may not be the whole story. After all, why else would the network share a name with the gabai, the Aramaic and Hebrew honorific of the person in charge of religious ritual in a Jewish synagogue?
As The Daily Beast reports,
The fringes who flocked to Gab became some of its earliest critics, with some questioning Torba’s motives in founding the site. Members of the Gab’s large anti-Semitic wing noted that its url (Gab.ai) loosely translates to a Hebrew word meaning an assistant in a synagogue, and speculated that the site was actually a ruse by shadowy Jewish forces who would one day crush Gab’s user base in some unspecified fashion.
Torba, predictably, denied the allegations:
“We’re probably just being corralled,” one user wrote, accusing Torba of being Jewish. Torba (not Jewish) clarified that “Gab” is not Hebrew, and that even if he were Jewish, his tolerance for anti-Semitism on the site would prove his “commitment to free speech.”
So, who to believe? When reached for comment, Tablet’s local gabai responded only with this cryptic graphic: