Gab, a social media platform that touts its openness to any and all forms of speech, has sued Google for refusing to list the Gab Android App on the Google Play store. Gab claims, according to Ars Technica, that Google denied its listing to protect a data-sharing agreement with Twitter, potentially violating antitrust rules. But the stakes here may be more about perception than the law.
Twitter used to think of itself as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” But the internet obviously took that as a challenge, breeding dozens of professional trolls like Milo Yiannopoulous, who was banned from Twitter after organizing a racially offensive harassment campaign against actor Leslie Jones.
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Yiannopoulos, along with many white supremacists and other prominent figures of the so-called “alt-right,” have since migrated to Gab as their primary public platform. Antitrust lawyer Mark Patterson told Ars Technica that if Google could show that they chose not to allow Gab into the Play Store because of possible reputational damage from that strong association with hate groups, the antitrust claim would have little chance of success.
Even if it is summarily thrown out of court, Gab’s suit will help the nascent platform further establish itself as an alternative to Silicon Valley’s center-left cultural norms. Those have been on display recently in Google’s move to silence critics at think tanks and internally, and in a broader tech-world crackdown on formerly-tolerated hate speech.