Is the Alternative?

When Parler was bounced off Amazon Web Services back in January, it seemed like a good idea to migrate to Gab, since they control their own server network. As YouTube continued its relentless suppression of counter-narratives, Gab TV was one of many good alternatives. And as the war on counter narratives extended to financial services, Gab again beckoned, with a plan to open their own bank.

How’s all that working out?

Independent banking, perhaps Gab’s most ambitious aspiration, still has Torba playing defense. Just last week another bank canceled its relationship with Gab. In a report published by The National File, Torba said “I predict that soon we [Gab] will see the same level of financial persecution used against churches who refuse to go woke and continue to preach God’s Word. Christians and conservatives need to wake up to what is happening in this country. We’re moving beyond simply getting banned from Facebook and Twitter and onto something much worse: they want us banned from the entire financial system.”

Despite setbacks on the financial front, which could eventually prove fatal, if you believe free speech should be free in America, then Gab, and its founder, Andrew Torba, still deserve a lot of credit. Gab TV is up and running, and the original is a throwback to the wild free-for-all that Twitter and Facebook once were. But scale is the challenge, and Gab, for all its integrity, does not reach a lot of people.

Scale is relative, of course. And it isn’t easy to get user figures for Gab. Their global Alexa ranking is 2,208. That’s impressive, but Twitter’s Alexa ranking is 38. To achieve the scale of their monopolistic rival, they have literally a world of ground to make up. According to Omnicore, Twitter is used by 21 percent of U.S. adults, with over 200 million worldwide users. According to The Intercept, as of March 2021, Gab had 4 million users.

Gab TV is off to a good start, but have a look at their view counts. Scroll down to videos posted 24 hours ago and find the one with the most views: Gab TV’s most popular July 12 video, based on counts one day later, has the edifying title “SICK! School Hires Gay Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey to Teach Small Children How to Stick Stuff Up Your Butt.” Yes, perhaps we need to know what some on the extreme Left is trying to teach our kids, but at 643 views, not too many people got the message.

Gab, just like Parler, Odysee, BitChute, Rumble, and dozens of other alternative platforms, faces an almost impossible challenge. They are competing with three monopolies: Twitter for short form text, Facebook for long form text, and YouTube for videos. Those three companies own their respective markets. Their competitors, and there are many, are competing for the remaining ten percent slice, if that.

As Robert Mariani, writing for The American Conservative, put it back in January, “You Can’t ‘Just Build Your Own Twitter.’ To build an alternate social media website with a dissenting moderation policy, you must first invent the universe. Good luck.”

Another big problem for the alternative platforms, beyond the challenge of inventing a parallel universe, is the stars and constellations they will attract. We value fringe content, all of those odd stars, because if you navigate through them, you will find valuable information. But you have to explore a lot of idiocy as well. The mainstream platforms, for all their sinister manipulation of the narrative, have a huge advantage. Pretty much every nonpolitical attraction, from how to string a guitar to how to repair a washing machine, climb Mount Shasta, or find every old friend you ever knew, is right there. With that critical mass, they’re never going to lose most people.

The monopolies know this. That’s why fighting to make them respect free speech is just as important as supporting the alternative platforms.

 *   *   *