Earlier this year, Gab, the “free speech” social network and a popular forum for far-right viewpoint holders and other fringe groups, launched a browser extension named Dissenter that creates an alternative comment section for any website.
The plug-in is now removed from the extension stores of both Mozilla and Google, as the extension violates their acceptable use policy. This decision comes after Columbia Journalism Review reported about the extension to the tech giants.
— Nausicaa Renner 🐀 (@nausjcaa) April 11, 2019
The Dissenter plug-in, which goes by the tagline “the comment section of the internet”, allows users to discuss any topic in real-time without fearing that their posted comment will be removed by a moderator. The plug-in failed to pass the review process of Mozilla and is now disabled for Firefox users. But, the users who have already installed the plug-in can continue to use it.
The Gab team took to Twitter complaining about Mozilla’s Acceptable Use Policy.
Dissenter is a brand-new product with one primary rule – people can exercise their First Amendment rights online in plain text. Apparently @Mozilla regards this as a violation of their terms of service. pic.twitter.com/OisY19H7aI
— Gab.com💬Dissenter.com (@getongab) April 10, 2019
When asked for more clarity on which policies Dissenter did not comply with, Mozilla said that they received abuse reports for this extension. It further added that the platform is being used for promoting violence, hate speech, and discrimination, but they failed to show any examples to add any credibility to their claims.
. @mozilla claims that they received “reports,” yet they fail to include ANY examples so that we can review and take action. We have a zero tolerance policy for threats or incitement to violence. pic.twitter.com/Mwr3K3KrEi
— Gab.com💬Dissenter.com (@getongab) April 10, 2019
The extension developers responded by saying that they do moderate any illegal conduct or posts happening on their platform as and when they are brought to their attention. “We do not display content containing words from a list of the most offensive racial epithets in the English language,” added the Gab developers. Soon after this, Google Chrome also removed the extension from Chrome Extension Store stating the same reason that the extension does not comply with their policies.
After getting deplatformed, the Dissenter team has come to the conclusion that the best way forward is to create their own browser. They are thinking of forking Chromium or the privacy-focused web browser, Brave. “That’s it. We are going to fork Chromium and create a browser with Dissenter, ad blocking, and other privacy tools built in along with the guarantee of free speech that Silicon Valley does not provide.”
Here is us predicting that this would happen, two months ago, before Dissenter even launched: https://t.co/4lsMPbPGZq
— Gab.com💬Dissenter.com (@getongab) April 11, 2019
Gab does not moderate views posted by its users until they are flagged for any violations and says it “treats its users as adults”. So, until people are complaining, the platform will not take any appropriate action against the threats and hate speech posted in the comments. Though it is known for its tolerance for fringe views and has drawn immense heat from the public, things took turn for the worse after the recent Christchurch shooting. A far-right extremist who shot dead 20+ Muslims and left 30 others injured in two Mosques in New Zealand, had shared his extremist manifesto on social media sites like Gab and 8chan. He had also live-streamed the shooting on Facebook, Youtube, and others.
This is not the first time when Gab has been involved in a controversy. Back in October last year, PayPal banned Gab following the anti-Semitic mass shooting in Pittsburgh. It was reported that the shooter was an active poster on the Gab website and has hinted his intentions shortly before the attack. In the same month, hosting provider Joyent also suspended its services for Gab. The platform has also been warned by Stripe for the violations of their policies.
Torba, the co-founder of Gab, said, “Payments companies like Paypal, Stripe, Square, Cash App, Coinbase, and Bitpay have all booted us off. Microsoft Azure, Joyent, GoDaddy, Apple, Google’s Android store, and other infrastructure providers, too, have denied us service, all because we refuse to censor user-generated content that is within the boundaries of the law.”
Looking at this move by Mozilla, many users felt that this actually contradicts their goal of making the web free and open for all.
Hi @mozilla, as a long time contributor and supporter, I am extremely displeased by this vague and seemingly politically motivated decision. You cannot expect to build trust in the Mozilla brand by arbitrarily restricting those whose political leanings do not align with yours.
— Emanuel Hoogeveen (@VerGreeneyes) April 11, 2019
Fascist Left defines "Yay Trump" as violence
VERY disappointed in Mozilla who I have sent donations to
Once a platform for free speech communications for oppressed peoples around the world and now cave to oppresive leftists.
Will delete because next they will come 4 my data
— Chicalina Tanner (@ChicalinaT) April 10, 2019
A Hacker News user added, “While Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and now Mozilla may think they’re doing a good thing by blocking what they consider hateful speech, it’s just helping these people double down on thinking they’re in the right. We should not be afraid of ideas. Speech != violence. Violence is violence. With platforms banning more and more offensive content and increasing the label of what is bannable, we’re seeing a huge split in our world. People who could once agree to disagree now don’t even want to share the same space with one another. It’s all call out culture and it’s terrible.”
Many people think that this step is nothing but a step towards mass-censorship. “I see it as an active endorsement of filter funneling comments sections online, given that despite the operators of Dissenter having tried to make efforts to comply with the terms of service Mozilla have imposed for being listed in their gallery, were given an unclear rationale as to how having “broken” these terms, and no clue as to what they were supposed to do to have avoided doing so,” adds a Reddit user.
Mozilla has not revoked the add-on’s signature, so Dissenter can be distributed while guaranteeing that the add-on is safe and can be updated automatically. Manual installation of the extension from Dissenter.com/download is also possible.