The man accused of killing at least 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue may have communicated his intentions on the social media site Gab, a haven for "alt-right" sympathizers looking for an alternative to Twitter.
An account on Gab attributed to Robert Bowers, the same name as the alleged shooter, posted a criticism of the refugee advocacy group HIAS — an organization which was originally named the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Someone using the username @onedingo posted "Screw your optics, I'm going in."
It was the last message on the account and was posted just before the shooting occurred. A previous post on the account blamed HIAS for bringing in "hostile invaders to dwell among us." There was no specific mention of the Tree of Life synagogue, but the account had anti-Semitic rhetoric posted to it.
Gab is a social media alternative to Twitter, functioning in a very similar style and aesthetic, and promotes itself on the platform of pure free speech. It's been considered a haven for those who have met with hostility or been banned from other platforms like Twitter since 2016, after President Trump won the election. So-called 'alt-right' personalities, in particular, have found a home on Gab.
The account tied to Bowers was taken down by Gab, but a snapshot was preserved around 11:00 a.m. EST, according to website archive system archive.is.
Confusion followed after the shooting because the handle @onedingo was also on a Twitter account. That Twitter account was created on August 2017 and has no tweet sent from it, but the user primarily followed accounts associated with the Kansas City area, rather than anything tied to Pittsburgh or the state of Pennsylvania.
It remains unconfirmed whether Bowers was the actual Gab account holder or that he made the posts on it. The @onedingo Twitter account was widely shared and cited after shooting, but it appears to have no connection to Bowers.
Other @onedingo Gab posts call President Trump a globalist and disparages his Make America Great Again campaign as well as noted Internet groups supporting Trump. An unverified and unarchived comment supposedly made by @onedingo on Gab was widely circulated by media outlets. It claims the user did not vote for Trump and that had avoided Trump's trademark red "MAGA" — "Make America Great Again" — baseball caps.
Gab has since taken to Twitter to defend itself as a neutral social media site that takes action against terrorists, claiming that it cooperated and reached out to the FBI before the bureau was even aware that Bowers had an account on their platform.
Question: where is the statement from Facebook and others where he had an account?— Gab.com🍂 (@getongab) October 27, 2018
Gab acted swiftly and immediately.
We reached out to the FBI before they even knew he had an account.
We instantly sent both the FBI and the US DOJ the data. https://t.co/3X8fWKmfuw
WRONG.— Gab.com🍂 (@getongab) October 27, 2018
Our website is and always was promoted as a safe haven FOR EVERYONE TO SPEAK FREELY. https://t.co/X3uNi6BqnU
Words are not bullets.— Gab.com🍂 (@getongab) October 27, 2018
Social media posts have a body count of zero.
The sole responsibility for today's horrific actions lies with one person.
We will do everything in our power to work with law enforcement to see that justice is served.