What is Gab? A Bastion of Free Speech or an Alt-Right Echo Chamber?

Over the past few years, a number of new “fringe” communities, like 4chan or certain subreddits, have gained traction on the Web at a rapid pace. However, more often than not, little is known about how they evolve or what kind of activities they attract, despite recent research has shown that they influence how false information reaches mainstream communities. This motivates the need to monitor these communities and analyze their impact on the Web’s information ecosystem. In August 2016, a new social network called Gab was created as an alternative to Twitter. It positions itself as putting “people and free speech first'”, welcoming users banned or suspended from other social networks. In this paper, we provide, to the best of our knowledge, the first characterization of Gab. We collect and analyze 22M posts produced by 336K users between August 2016 and January 2018, finding that Gab is predominantly used for the dissemination and discussion of news and world events, and that it attracts alt-right users, conspiracy theorists, and other trolls. We also measure the prevalence of hate speech on the platform, finding it to be much higher than Twitter, but lower than 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board.

Tags: 4chan, alt-right, conspiracy theorists, Gab, Hate Speech, subreddits, trolls, Twitter