We Are At War For A Free And Open Internet
This is the story of Gab’s most difficult and most controversial decision to date. On September 1st I opened my email to see a note from the compliance department of our domain registrar, AsianRegistry.com. Instantly I knew something was up. They asked that we update our contact information on the gab.ai domain within one week or it “may result in the suspension of the domain.” To be fair: the address was outdated. The last time we tried to update it on the AsianRegistry website it failed. We promptly provided the requested information and updated to our new address.
A few days later we heard back, only this time it was from AsianRegistry’s legal team. They noted that they had received a “formal complaint” about content posted on Gab. They cited the individual link in question and told us that we had 48 hours to remove “any images that are in violation of their policies.” We then proceeded to read their guidelines to determine what violation could have occurred with the post they cited. We have followed up with their legal team to get some clarity and specifics about which clause was violated. The only thing that stuck out to us was the following vague and ambiguous clause:
Instra Corporation prohibits unlawful use of a registered domain name or product/service we supply, in a manner that is harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, or hateful against another party. This includes, but is not limited to, hate speech, discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender, religion, sexuality or race. Instra Corporation reserves the right to suspend or delete any product or service that, after reasonable investigation, is deemed to be in breach of this clause.
You’ll also note in their guidelines that they “typically give 15 days,” in our case we were given 48 hours to act.
Instra generally provides registrants with 15 days notice of a pending domain action due to a violation of our Terms of Service in order to provide them with the opportunity to remedy the alleged violation. If the registrant is not in violation of our Terms of Service at the end of the 15 day notice period, we may cancel any pending action and consider the matter resolved. This notice period may change depending on the circumstances.
Upon looking at their guidelines, we reviewed the post in question to determine if it had broken our own Community Guidelines. Our guidelines are very clear about properly tagging content that is Not Safe For Work.
Gab follows the Stewart Standard Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964) on what constitutes pornography and obscene content.
We believe the post in question was indeed obscene. It should have been marked #NSFW and it was not, therefore it is in violation of our Community Guidelines.
This is not the first time we have enforced our guidelines. Gab has banned users for spamming, making death threats to the President, posting revenge porn, and doxing among others. We’ve been transparent and incredibly fair about this on many occasions.
We believe this effort was coordinated and planned. We knew this day would come and now we have entered a crossroads with a very binary decision: remove one post or lose our domain and thus the entire website.
Our choice was very clear to me. The post needs to come down. If it does not, we lose our domain. To my knowledge there are no pro-free speech domain registrars and that is a massive problem. Our only other option now would be to play a cat and mouse game by transferring our domain to another registrar. Others who have attempted to play this game have failed and even had their domain seized completely from under them. We will not play these games. We have little choice, for now.
The free and open internet as we know it is under attack. It is centralized and controlled by no more than a handful of companies who provide these services:
- DDoS protection
- Payment Processing
- Domain Registrars
- Mobile device hardware and software distribution
Without any of these things an individual website can not possibly compete and operate at scale. If left unchecked, these centralized platforms will continue their dominance and control the means of all information, personal data, and communication on the internet.
It’s not too late to save the free and open internet. Decentralized platforms built on the blockchain (including Gab in the near future) will inevitably give the power and control to The People and make the internet censorship-proof.
Gab wants to lead the creation of the next level of the internet. If Web 2.0 was about centralized, social, and mobile networks: Web 3.0 will be a decentralized, blockchain-based, radically transparent, people-powered internet infrastructure.
We are actively looking for a new registrar. This post will hopefully inspire other teams to start building or attract talented engineers to Gab who want to help us protect the free and open web. Until then, we will continue to build and fight for the freedoms we cherish.