Many people avoid popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, preferring to communicate on other sites which offer community services. Gab is one such alternative favored by some users.
Google recently pulled the app from its Play Store for alleged violations of policy, and Gab has responded by filing an antitrust lawsuit.
Filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Friday, the lawsuit alleges that Google is in violation of antitrust laws.
“Google Play and Android have monopoly power in the app store market, and Google’s apps YouTube and Google+ compete directly against Gab,” Marc Randazza, Gab’s attorney, said in a statement. “Google’s intimate partnership with Twitter, which also competes against Gab, makes Google’s control of all Android apps available through the Play Store a serious restraint of trade issue.”
A Google spokesperson responded to the lawsuit, stating: “This claim is baseless and we’re happy to defend our decision in court if need be.”
The spokesperson explained that in order to be on the Play Store, there needs to be a certain “level of moderation” demonstrated by a social networking app. The moderation includes watching for content that encourages violence or advocates hate.
Gab was launched specifically because it was believed mainstream sites were suppressing conservative voices. Many Gab users have been suspended from Twitter, according to The Hill, who spoke with Gab spokesman Utsav Sanduja last month.
He said Gab suspects Google’s action was “related to their criticism of the internet search giant for firing a programmer who wrote a controversial internal memo about the tech industry’s gender disparities.”
Google suspended Gab from its app store last month, after the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots, which were both violent and deadly. At the time, Google said Gab was in violation of the app store’s hate-speech policy.
“This is a long-standing rule and clearly stated in our developer policies,” the spokesperson said in the statement. “This developer is welcome to appeal the suspension if they’ve addressed the policy violations and are compliant with our Developer Program Policies.”
Randazza said on Friday, “Regardless of Google’s pretextual justification for removing Gab, the effect is that they used their monopoly power in the app store to block an upstart competitor in the social media app market, to the detriment of millions of consumers who value free speech.”
Gab has become popular in alt-right circles. Apparently, “professional provocateur” Milo Yiannopoulos uses it after being kicked off Twitter last year for a feud with Leslie Jones. In July, the “Saturday Night Live” comedian said she was in a “personal hell” because Twitter users were posting inflammatory tweets to and about her. The posts were mainly focused on her performance and participation in a remake of “Ghostbusters.”
Jones vented her displeasure about some terribly insensitive and sexually explicit posts. That’s when Yiannopoulos entered the fray.
“If at first you don’t succeed (because your work is terrible), play the victim. EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS,” Yiannopoulos tweeted.
“Ghostbusters is doing so badly they’ve deployed @Lesdoggg to play the victim on Twitter. Very sad!” Yiannopoulos posted, followed by tweets that read: “Barely literate. America needs better schools!” and, “Rejected by yet another black dude,” referring to Jones as a man.
Jones reported him to Twitter, and Yiannopoulos said his account was “suspended for repeated violations of the Twitter rules,” specifically for inflicting abuse, and would not be restored.
The ban created a tidal wave of social commentary over where the line between free speech and hate speech lies.
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