Microsoft has threatened to cease hosting services for the alt-right social network Gab over two anti-Semitic posts, according to an email published by Gab founder Andrew Torba. The email claims the posts violate Microsoft policy and requests that Gab “promptly take appropriate action to resolve the complaint…within two business days” or hosting service will be suspended. If Gab is forced off Azure, Torba says service “will go down for weeks/months” as the company secures a new provider.
The named posts were written by Patrick Little, a Senate candidate who was ejected from a GOP convention in May for anti-Semitic views. The named posts, which are more than three weeks old, also express intense anti-Semitism and meet any reasonable definition of hate speech.
Little removed the posts on Friday, but described the complaint as “a violation of our rights as Americans.” Neither Gab nor Little responded to a request for comment.
In a statement, Microsoft said it received a third-party complaint about the content, and concluded that it incited violence and was in violation of Azure’s acceptable use policy. “We believe we have an important responsibility to ensure that our services are not abused by people and groups seeking to incite violence,” a spokesperson said. “Gab.ai is of course free to choose otherwise and work with another cloud service provider or host this content itself.”
Founded as an alt-right alternative for users who were banned by Twitter and Facebook, Gab has long struggled to maintain infrastructure partners in the face of persistent hate speech complaints. Gab’s apps have been dropped from both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, making the service largely unavailable on mobile devices. (The Google ban was the subject of an antitrust complaint.)
In 2017, Gab was nearly dropped by its domain registrar over a series of posts that violated the provider’s hate speech policy. Gab subsequently banned the user, arguing the posts constituted a credible threat of violence.
In the email posted by Torba, Microsoft named two posts as containing phishing URLs, although nothing in the posts themselves supports that claim. Microsoft has maintained a policy against hate speech since 2016, and it encourages users to report any content on Microsoft-hosted services that “advocates violence or promotes hatred based on...race.”
Update 8/10 3:23PM ET: Updated with comment from a Microsoft spokesperson.
Update 8/11 10:50AM ET: Updated to reflect that Little’s posts have been removed.