Gab’s plight highlights a central conundrum of digital governance. It is one thing for a site to tell a user they must take their hate elsewhere. It is another for the actors who control the Internet’s infrastructure to prevent the site itself from operating. With the digital security provider Cloudflare still on its side, Gab may manage to survive using a new domain and a new server, all in a darker corner of the Web. But the site’s access to the system where so many Americans talk, listen and live has been meaningfully reduced.
To many people, that is a development worth celebrating. The bigotry on Gab hardly seems in need of protection. While the Internet may feel like a public square, it is not the only public square; anti-Semites and their odious ilk can always protest peacefully in city streets. The massacre in Pittsburgh also showed, once again, that what happens online spills easily into the real world. Gab cultivated a cesspool for violence to bloom in, and many believe that its absence from the Internet will make the country safer.
At the same time, however, plenty of liberal-minded Americans view the Web as a utility to which everyone deserves equal access.