Microsoft threatened to drop hosting for Gab over hate speech posts

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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.

Comments

Little has pledged to remove the posts, but described the complaint as "a violation of our rights as Americans."

These people clearly don’t understand what rights they have as an American.

The content is certainly illegal. That said, the line has to be drawn somewhere, the hosting provider seems a bit low. I don’t expect the slippery slope to go down to the Level 3/interconnect level.

I’m surprised that ICANN isn’t involved in this. Issues like this make hosting more expensive for the rest of us… I would much rather this be handled quickly in court and have ICANN give their domain to law enforcement, then to have Microsoft spy on all their hosts for potentially illegal content.

Reddit for instance must deal with this often… making a competitor to Reddit harder to start due to the legal overhead.

I haven’t read the posts, but did you mean to say "legal" instead of "illegal"? Because "hate speech" is not illegal, there is no hate speech exception though it does look to violate Microsoft’s T&Cs

It’s Microsoft’s hosting site, they have a perfect right to know what’s on it.

I mean, it’s well within Microsoft’s right to do so.

"The right to free speech means the government can’t arrest you for what you say. It doesn’t mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it."

They certainly should host you, if you pay for it. What opinions you share are not for them to censor or have opinions about.

No they shouldn’t. You sign a T&C when you sign up, abide by it.

There’s opinions & then there’s hate speech. If you walk into my bar & you say you love Trump, that’s fine, but if you start talking about how much you hate looking at the black guy sitting across from you, then I’m allowed to kick you out.

What? It’s totally up to them who they choose to host.

Especially in the "you can choose not to bake a cake for people you dont like" supreme court ruling era, this would seem to make little sense.

"What opinions you share are not for them to censor or have opinions about."

It’s their site, so they are perfectly within their rights to censor anything they want. Especially if they have posted policies and these fools are allowing those policies to be broken.

If people don’t like it, they are free to find other hosting sites.

The fact is, they knew these policies were in effect before they bought the service. If they allow the policy to be broken, especially knowingly, they should expect their site to be terminated.

And they won’t be back.

You don’t have free range just because you hand someone money. You pay for the license to use the service, and that license has restrictions and agreements you have to accept. By agreeing and paying money for the described services with noted restrictions, you in fact agreed to not break the noted rules and regulations, otherwise you lose that service and you don’t get your money back.

This isn’t the wild West and its the same as buying a video game or program for your computer. Just because you paid money, that doesn’t mean you own that game or program. You only paid for a legal license to use that game or program…. The developer of said game or program still own it, just as Microsoft owns Azure and can therefore dictate what you can and can’t do.

Except these megacorps control large swaths of the internet, to the point of near monopolistic levels. Who gets to decide what hate speech is?

Just because they control parts of the internet doesn’t mean they control all of it. If Gab or Infowars don’t want to be censored, they shouldn’t use platforms from other companies.

Or start their own platform. It’s expensive sure, but still possible.

If they aren’t happy with the terms they accepted when enrolling with a service provider then they can pack up their nazi posters and get the fuck out

You can easily host a website without Microsoft. Go for it.

They accepted the terms when they signed up.

What "hate speech is" really doesn’t matter. Whoever owns the hosting company gets to decide that.

What matters here is that these people knew this policy was in effect before they purchased the services, and then allowed people to violate those policies.

That’s really all that’s relevant here. Don’t forget, anyone could start a hosting company and host whatever they like. If the alt-right nutjobs want this so bad, they can crowdsource their own hosting company.

Anyone else think it’s terrifying? There basically is an oligopoly that controls the internet and decides what’s acceptable speech and acts in concert to deplatform the people they don’t like. Soon those people won’t have anywhere to go, whether they are ready to pay or not. There definitely is not how capitalism is intended to work and we definitely have a problem.

Gab accepted Microsoft’s Terms of Service upon when they signed up. If you violate the terms you accepted, it shouldn’t be a surprise when you get kicked off the platform. It’s not hard to host your own site; not everything needs to be done through the cloud.

It’s more terrifying having these nazi pieces of shit spewing their garbage unabated

Is it though? Firstly most GAB users aren’t nazis but there surely are a lot of neo-nazis in there I’ll give you that. Making them invisible will only make it harder to monitor and engage with the truly dangerous ones.

Monitor and engage? Sorry, but I’m pretty sure most of us would rather skip on that responsibility. I have no desire or interest in making it easier to Spot The Nazi. If they must persist, I’m not going to go on a crusade, but I sure as heck don’t support making it easy for them to stick around.

I meant the people who want to engage them as well as the authorities. And there are no nazis, just wannabes.

You realize if you take down what someone says, they don’t disappear from reality, right?

The only way to truly eliminate someone who disagrees with you is to engage them on ideas and convince them that they’re wrong.

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