Alt-Right Twitter App Developers Sue Google After Gab.Ai App Is Kicked Out Of The Play Store

from the symbolic-acts-of-litigation dept

Google’s decision to boot a controversial social media app from its Play store has resulted in a lawsuit. And it’s a very strange lawsuit — one that attempts to turn inconsistent moderation efforts into anti-trust allegations against Google.

Some background information is necessary. Some of this can be gleaned from the complaint [PDF], which was put together by Marc Randazza (of First Amendment fame), Ron Coleman (key to the Slants’ Supreme Court trademark win), and Jordan Rushie (who has participated in/fought against copyright trolling efforts). Given the litigation credentials behind the filing, it’s surprising there’s not more to the complaint.

But first, the background:

Gab.ai is the plaintiff in this suit. Gab sprung to life as a Twitter alternative, built in response to a perceived crackdown on alt-right accounts. It’s not as though the accusations are false. Twitter has frequently applied its moderation standards unequally, resulting in bans and shadowbans of alt-right accounts. As the lawsuit points out, Twitter removed alt-right figurehead Milo Yiannopoulos verified checkmark — not because Milo wasn’t who he said he was, but because it apparently didn’t like him or his millions of followers. Six months later, Twitter banned him for good, citing his harassment of actress Leslie Jones.

So, much like Voat became a Reddit for people who thought Reddit censored too much speech, Gab became Twitter for those who felt Twitter censored too much speech. Gab became a mostly-free alternative Twitter, supported by subscribers, and heavily-populated by alt-right Twitter users.

Gab claims to embrace free speech. It engages in very little moderation of users’ content, only culling certain content like child porn, posting of private information, threats, spam, and use of the platform to sell illegal goods. It does not police “hate speech” like Facebook, Twitter, and Google do. It’s the last part that bothers Google. Or at least that’s the stated reason for Google’s ban of Gab from its app store.

But this wasn’t Gab’s first app store ban. Apple blocked it twice, first citing pornographic content as the reason. (Obviously, Twitter allows pornographic posts and yet remains available in the iOS app store…) Gab added porn-blocking by default but was rejected again by Apple, with the company pointing to its rules on hate speech.

Pretty much the same thing happened with Google. Google claimed Gab did not include a “sufficient level of moderation” and did not act to remove content “encouraging violence and hate against groups of people.”

Gab’s response to Google’s ban pointed out it shouldn’t need to police speech that isn’t actually unlawful just to stay in Google’s app store graces. Roughly a month after Google’s decision, Gab has sued. What should probably have been left to public shaming of Google for belatedly distancing itself from Gab’s social media construct has now become a plea for federal intercession.

The lawsuit runs down the history of Gab, as well as Twitter’s shutdown of prominent alt-right/white supremacist accounts. The antitrust action appears to be limited to Google’s partnership with Twitter. Google now has access to Twitter’s “firehose” — all public posts from all Twitter users in real time. This allows Google to return tweets in its search results.

Apparently, this partnership — combined with Google’s domination of Android app services — is evidence of Google’s anticompetitive behavior. The problem with the argument is Google’s unwieldy application of its app store policies doesn’t appear to be Google attempting to eliminate a competitor. Gab doesn’t directly compete with Google+. If anything, it’s a Twitter competitor. Google’s only interest in Twitter is better search results. Kicking Gab out of the app store doesn’t remove its web presence, nor does it prevent Gab users from downloading the app directly from Gab itself.

Much is made of the danger of sideloading apps. And it’s true sideloading poses greater risks to Android users, especially if they’re careless with their sources. While this behavior is somewhat discouraged by the Android system during phone setup, the option to sideload can be turned on and off as needed to allow the installation of apps not included in Google’s Play store.

The lawsuit makes better points about removal from the Play store having deleterious financial effects on Gab, including the loss of ad placements in Google store and targeted ad campaigns utilizing Google’s tools to find new app users.

Included in the filing are several reasons why Gab’s removal is inconsistent with Google’s own app policies. But that doesn’t turn this into an anticompetitive act on Google’s part. The end result may be indistinguishable but there are plenty of innocuous reasons for the app’s removal that have nothing to do with Google killing Gab to protect its partnership with Twitter.

But that’s pretty much what the filing hopes the judge will find. Google’s history of anticompetitive behavior is detailed in the lawsuit, as well as its forays into patent enforcement. Twitter’s inconsistent application of its policies to shut down alt-right accounts is also detailed, providing evidence of nothing, considering Twitter isn’t party to this lawsuit.

Hidden in all of this are two paragraphs on Section 230 which misconstrue protections afforded to entities like Gab.

Even if it were possible for a social media platform to censor “defamatory and mean-spirited content” generated by 250,000 users, a level of content censorship by a social media platform that extended to “defamatory” and “mean-spirited” content place at risk that service’s status as a protected Internet Service Provider, as opposed to a publisher or speaker, under 47 U.S. Code § 230, also known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”).

Unlike an Internet Service Provider, a publisher or speaker is not granted the “safe harbor” benefits of Section 230, and may be held liable for defamation or other torts or other liability arising from content published on a platform it owns or manages.

This assertion greatly misconstrues how Section 230 protections work. This would be worth noting in any case, but especially so since it involves Marc Randazza, who has penned screeds pointing out the opposite: moderation efforts by ISPs do not undermine Section 230 protections.

I do delete comments from time to time. If I notice them and they are “excessively violent” or “harassing” or “otherwise objectionable,” I delete them. Why? First, its my blog, so my fucking rules. You have a right to express yourself, but not necessarily here. Second, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can delete one comment and leave 100 filthy, objectionable, harassing, defamatory, nasty, and brutish comments and still not be liable.

Section 230 has been a wonderful thing. It has allowed the Internet to grow, and allowed services like Facebook, Craigslist, Fling.com, Pissedconsumer.com, and any number of other fun websites to exist. It allows me to have a comments section on each post, without worrying about whether I’ll be liable for something posted there. It does foster free speech online. So hooray Section 230.

And the relevant part of Section 230, being brushed aside here to portray Gab’s lack of moderation as somehow being essential to its 230 protections:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—

(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected

Indeed, it’s this very part of CDA 230 that likely will help Google get this lawsuit tossed. Under widely established precedents concerning CDA 230, Google is free to moderate its platform — in this case, the Android Play Store — however it likes, without increasing its own liability. To misrepresent CDA 230 by saying that moderation takes away CDA 230 protections… and then ignoring that those same protections probably prevent this lawsuit is just strange.

This is a bizarre lawsuit, to say the least. It almost looks like a proxy salvo in the ongoing war between the “Alt-Right” and the “Establishment Left,” which is no longer political parties in power but West Coast tech companies shutting down speech they don’t like.

The problem is, Google can legally police speech however it wants. It pays the price in goodwill and public perception, but arbitrary enforcement of app store policies isn’t the same thing as antitrust violations, even if the end result is the death of apps and platforms.

At the end of it, we’re left with a lawsuit that serves mostly to cater to its base: pissed off Gab users. That’s fine, if that’s all you want from your legal representation. Google’s booting of the Gab app isn’t any more correct than this resulting lawsuit. It’s a move that caters to its base: progressives who feel speech they don’t like shouldn’t be allowed anywhere.

Google’s motivations for the shutdown are probably as simplistic as they are inexcusable: Google simply didn’t want to be known as the place where people could go to get the Gab app. Apple’s earlier rejection relegated it to the Android ghetto and Google is engaging in broken windows policing. It’s ugly all over and it does nothing to reconcile diametrically-opposed thinking, but it’s not anticompetitive. It’s just stupid.

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Companies: gab.ai, google, twitter

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Comments on “Alt-Right Twitter App Developers Sue Google After Gab.Ai App Is Kicked Out Of The Play Store”

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137 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

What's going on with Randazza?

I mean, I know the guy supports nearly-unlimited free speech, and I get his support of rather distasteful characters towards that end. I mean, given that he’s adopted the use of the label "SJW" for people he disagrees with, maybe his time spent with those distasteful characters has rubbed off a bit, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m more concerned about his seeminglydubious grasp of copyright in the Pepe case, his seemingly dubious grasp of fair use in his DMCA filing, and now his seemingly dubious grasp of Section 230…

Marc used to be, from everything I’ve heard, an excellent lawyer, and he won a bunch of high-profile First Amendment cases (like the Rightshaven case). I wonder what happened.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: What's going on with Randazza?

Marc’s a decent chap for the most part but he is a lawyer for hire and he is fascinated by the limits of free speech. It is this fascination that takes him to unsavoury places at times, and this is one of them.

Marc is actually right about copyright in the Pepe case; you don’t OWN the cultural items you create because you can’t own an idea. If fans run off and do something you’re not happy with it that’s unfortunate but copyright law won’t save your creation from being repurposed, i.e. used as memes. The purpose of copyright is to limit the right to earn money from distributing copies to the rightsholder — that’s all. In the case where someone is using it for a children’s book copyright infringement is in play and Furie is in a good position to sue for that as far as I know.

I don’t like the alt-right. They are truly awful people. However, the more one tries to shut them up the louder and more insistent they become. The only way to defeat them is with ridicule; meme harder.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: What's going on with Randazza?

Somebody did, they thought they’d be good to go but got sued. The insistence on the use of the word “Property” is the problem here; courts are increasingly forgetting the Constitutional purpose of copyright and are buying into the ownership angle. Don’t be surprised to find that eventually copyright terms no longer have a limit because it’s property. That’s where we’re headed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What's going on with Randazza?

Oh, I agree that Axanar got an unfair shake here.

But you said "copyright law won’t save your creation from being repurposed." Not that preventing repurposing is against the spirit of the law (a point I agree with), but that the law itself, as interpreted by the courts, won’t protect work from being repurposed.

My point is that the Axanar case shows exactly that: that the law, as it is written, used, and interpreted today, does prevent such repurposing, and that, by presenting it as a slam dunk, Marc Randazza is either bluffing a better hand than he has (always possible), knows something about the case beyond the obvious (which is why I said it’s seemingly dubious), or is overconfident in his chances of winning this case.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What's going on with Randazza?

My point is that the Axanar case shows exactly that: that the law, as it is written, used, and interpreted today, does prevent such repurposing

Pardon my pedantry but it doesn’t prevent jack. It does, however, mean you could be sued and that the plaintiff is likely to win. People do stuff all the time, it’s the ones who are caught who end up in court. I’d be interested to learn how memes could be prevented; yes, I know about the times they’ve ended up in court but once a meme "escapes into the wild" you can’t catch it and lock it back up again. The Streisand Effect takes over, particularly when courts are involved. Using the item without permission in a book is much easier to prosecute. I think that’ll win.

…by presenting it as a slam dunk, Marc Randazza is either bluffing a better hand than he has (always possible), knows something about the case beyond the obvious (which is why I said it’s seemingly dubious), or is overconfident in his chances of winning this case.

He does both of those things, to be honest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 What's going on with Randazza?

Pardon my pedantry but it doesn’t prevent jack. It does, however, mean you could be sued and that the plaintiff is likely to win.

And here, on this site, you’re going to argue that lawsuits don’t create a chilling effect on the same types of expression that people are sued for?

This is certainly an odd venue in which to make that argument.

I’ll concede that nothing will completely stop memes, even specific memes, from spreading. However, in the Pepe case, the content was taken down without even a lawsuit (Randazza was basically saying "I’ll hand you your ass if you try to get the money you’re threatening to sue for"), which I’d say proves my point better than it proves yours.

He does both of those things, to be honest.

Both of those… three things?

Are there two in particular you agree with, or was that meant to encompass all three?

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 What's going on with Randazza?

And here, on this site, you’re going to argue that lawsuits don’t create a chilling effect on the same types of expression that people are sued for?
This is certainly an odd venue in which to make that argument.

I’ve not seen any examples of meme-making being chilled. As I’ve already said the one about the Pepe character being used in a book is likely to win — that’s flat out infringement.

the content was taken down without even a lawsuit (Randazza was basically saying "I’ll hand you your ass if you try to get the money you’re threatening to sue for")

That won’t stop the meme from spreading even though the content was removed from that site — for now. I’m using Funnyjunk as precedent here; the Oatmeal’s creator wasn’t happy about fans uploading his stuff there without even linking to his site but ultimately accepted that they’re going to do it anyway. That’s the trouble with sites based on uploaded content; the only way to proactively prevent them from uploading stuff you don’t want there is to approve it prior to uploading. That’s impractical. This does not mean it’s okay, I’m just saying it happens. So… don’t be surprised to see Pepe memes popping up on that site again. It’ll happen sooner or later unless the site moderators are pre-approving posts.

Are there two in particular you agree with, or was that meant to encompass all three?

Ah… running out of break time. Yes, it was meant to encompass all three.

Thad says:

Re: Re: What's going on with Randazza?

If fans run off and do something you’re not happy with it that’s unfortunate but copyright law won’t save your creation from being repurposed, i.e. used as memes. The purpose of copyright is to limit the right to earn money from distributing copies to the rightsholder — that’s all.

That’s not entirely true. There are four prongs to a fair use analysis; profit is only one of them. The lines are blurry and it’s difficult to guess where a court will come down.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: What's going on with Randazza?

Ohai, Thad. You’re right about what happens in practice, can’t argue there. However, memes will happen whether courts come down on them like a ton o’ bricks or not.

Creations will be repurposed nonetheless, is what I’m saying here. Fan fiction, parody, memes… whether these are legal or not they still happen. Heck, I’ve discovered there is such a thing as real person fiction. The implications…!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What's going on with Randazza?

Techdirt is avoiding commenting on that for some reason. These guys are insane thinking that saying, kill all people who are different than me as a rallying cry for power is just simple free speech. Once that group gets in power (if ever) and starts executing their known plan, these jerks will just do an about face and act like nazi speech doesn’t bring with it material consequences/actions.

Free speech is much more complex than what the a-holes on this site make it out to be.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Alt-Right Twitter App"???

From interviews I’ve viewed of the creator of the Gab.AI app, I wouldn’t describe their app as “Alt-Right” – they’re just again censorship/want to be a more open alternative to Twitter.

Calling Gab.Ai an “Alt-Right Twitter App” would be like calling Twitter a “Far Left App”.

John Snape (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "Alt-Right Twitter App"???

It might not be “mainstream” to the owners of Twitter, but it is in the general population. There are more Republicans registered than there are Democrats. And they control more state houses, as well as Congress and the presidency, than Democrats do. That seems pretty “mainstream” to me.

Thad says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "Alt-Right Twitter App"???

It is only this election cycle and the divisiveness of the media that it is equated to hitleresque attitudes.

Nonsense. The term "alt-right" was originated by Paul Gottfried in 2008 and has been promoted by Richard Spencer since at least 2010. Gottfried has been preaching the superiority of white Christian European culture for decades, and Spencer is a white supremacist who has called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing".

It’s only this election cycle that most people have heard the term "alt-right", but it’s been associated with white nationalism for as long as it’s existed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Alt-Right Twitter App"???

There are more Republicans registered than there are Democrats.

Do you have a citation for this? The last numbers I can find are from 2014 and Democrats were slightly higher than Republicans in registration.

As has been pointed out already, you’re wrong about what is generally categorized as alt-right, but it seems like your claim about Republicans being greater in number isn’t necessarily true either.

John Snape (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Alt-Right Twitter App"???

Actually, I was wrong. It looks like it is about evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with a larger percentage who classify themselves as “independent.” It seems to vacillate back and forth between the two major parties.

Source: http://news.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx

As for alt-right categorization: I was told I was a white supremacist simply for asking why people dismiss the violence from Antifa, and that I should put my white hood back on and slither back to Alabama.

John Snape (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 "Alt-Right Twitter App"???

According to the original author of that statement, it’s the opposite:

> I said ‘The plural of anecdote is data” some time in the 1969-70 academic year while teaching a graduate seminar at Stanford. The occasion was a student’s dismissal of a simple factual statement — by another student or me — as a mere anecdote. The quotation was my rejoinder.

Source: http://freakonomics.com/2010/04/29/quotes-uncovered-whats-the-plural-of-anecdote/

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: "Alt-Right Twitter App"???

So, ‘Conservapedia’ isn’t a ‘Far-Right’ alternate to Wikipedia by your logic then?

(For those unaware, years ago some conservatives got mad at Wikipedia’s supposed ‘Liberal bias’ and decided to start their own alternate wikipedia for conservatives, called Conservapedia. The site was WIDELY mocked across much of the Internet, both for the lack of content, and for just how ridiculously inaccurate many of the articles it had were, especially on articles about anything vaguely political.)

Anonymous Coward says:

open and shut case

stupid people use twitter and gab, however, it appears certain that twitter does not enforce it’s own rules uniformly and violates the app stores rules which also does not enforce it’s own rules uniformly…

As a juror, based on the information “currently available” I would be deciding in favor of gab. Hypocrisy rates pretty high on my list of things to nail folks to the wall over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: open and shut case

“You know Twitter isn’t a party to these proceedings, right?”

On the surface no, but under anti-trust, potentially. The question comes down to, is Twitter in communication with Apple to favor its app over others like it? If yes, then they are party. If no, then the next question moves to why is apple not treating the other app fairly by comparison? Does apple execs have stock in Twitter which causes them to unfairly favor them? Those are questions that need answering in these cases.

“And while I’m here, sideloading is ridiculously easy. Anyone who wants Gab can:

Turn on sideloading -> install Gab -> turn off sideloading.

It’s Google store; who cares what they ban from it?”

Yes, you are correct that people can easily overcome some of these limitations. But that would be like saying Walmart can turn away black customers because they can easily go over to Target to buy the same thing.

Why has Apple decided to not enforced its own policy evenly? Is Twitter involved, in any way, with promoting this occurrence? Do executive have ulterior motives?

Twitter may be innocent here, but they can certainly be suspect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: open and shut case

Yes, you are correct that people can easily overcome some of these limitations. But that would be like saying Walmart can turn away black customers because they can easily go over to Target to buy the same thing.

More like saying that Walmart can refuse to carry a certain item in their store. It’s the product being targeted, not the customers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 open and shut case

This is not the same thing.

An electronic item is not comparable in the same way as a physical object taking up space on a shelf here.

And we are talking about the rules “Google” has set and the fact that “Google” is not evenly enforcing their own rules. This is the problem. It really does not matter how they pick and choose when they are picking and choosing in contravention of their own rules.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 open and shut case

Report content issues or violations

Here’s how you can let us know when you come across inappropriate content, comments, and reviews on Google Play. We take your reports very seriously.
Flag apps, games, or music as inappropriate

We review flagged content for hate speech, spam, nudity, malicious behavior, and other violations of our Terms of Service

Clear as day. Users can still side-load. Just like those the "PeeOTUS" blocked on twitter can still sign out to see his tweets.

As I said – welcome to the new normal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 open and shut case

there is no helping stupid.

that is not the problem here, and you are too stupid to understand that!

The problem is not specifically who gets rejected or not, but the reasons they got rejected. The problem is Googles consistency in enforcing the rules. Inconsistently enforcing your own rules potentially places you into legal hot water because you can now be made to appear that you are engaging in anti-trust behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 open and shut case

This is not the same thing.

An electronic item is not comparable in the same way as a physical object taking up space on a shelf here.

Please, explain how "not serving black customers" is more comparable to "not carrying a particular product in your electronic store" than "not carrying a particular product in your physical store" would be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: open and shut case

Yes, you are correct that people can easily overcome some of these limitations. But that would be like saying Walmart can turn away black customers because they can easily go over to Target to buy the same thing.

Or like a same-sex couple being told they can get their cake or marriage license somewhere else.

That’s the problem when you mix your personal morals into business isn’t it? Sooner or later you’ll find yourself on the other end of it, whining and complaining…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 open and shut case

No class should be protected, that by its nature demands the law to be unfairly applied to everyone which directly means that equality before the law is no longer possible and Justice is sacrificed for political expediency. These things are certain to bite you on the ass in the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 open and shut case

If you do think protected classes are a good idea, political ideologies should be protected at least as much as religion, because politics is of such importance to a remotely free society.

However, IMO a better and fairer solution to protected classes in business and employment would be a requirement that any entity doing business (as defined for tax etc.) and which holds itself out to the public as engaging in some business (to exclude internal sub-companies which only do business with their controllers) may decline to do business with any member of the public only on demonstrable business grounds.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re:3 open and shut case

You should not be allowed to create a system of Jim Crow based on any criteria. This includes politics. Actually, the prevention of such a thing based on political lines should be the FIRST thing you seek to avoid.

The fact that you retreat to a legalism just demonstrates that you don’t really value the underlying principle (namely liberty).

Your reaction is why we need to have laws and governments (and associated abuses) in place to maintain order and protect rights.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 open and shut case

Just to devil’s-advocate a bit: what aspect of a system of religion (which is, generally speaking, a matter of choice) raises it to the same level as the ethnicity of a person (which, at least in all examples I can think of, cannot be changed)?

And what is it about a system of religion (again, a matter of choice and belief) that distinguishes it from any other belief system in this regard? In philosophical and principle terms, I mean, not anything based in “because the people who wrote the rules said it should be that way”.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 open and shut case

Religion involves faith and personal spirituality—a belief, or lack thereof, in something bigger than oneself. Whether someone believe in Jesus Christ, Mohammed, the Norse gods, a general sense of The Divine, or no supernatural force/deity at all, their religious beliefs stem from a personal search for their own spiritual truth. In an ideal world, a religious belief, regardless of whether it is theistic or atheistic, would neither govern the rule of law nor become prey to legal discrimination. Religion may not be an immutable trait, but it is as personal to a given individual as their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The government should never be in the business of declaring a specific belief or an entire belief system as “invalid”.

Political beliefs, by contrast, function near-entirely within the secular. They require not faith or spirituality, but facts, data, and logic. And while religious beliefs often play a role in someone’s political beliefs, that someone could still hold a political position that contradicts their religion. Anyone can abandon or change their political and ethical beliefs if those beliefs—or the person holding them—seem obsolete or faulty; look at the decade-long societal shift in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage as proof.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 open and shut case

“Or like a same-sex couple being told they can get their cake or marriage license somewhere else.”

This is a different situation. If we want to compare apples to apples, it would be that some gays are allowed to get married but others are not. Which comes back to the same question, why does this gay couple get a license but not the other? In the case here, some social applications are allowed to remain even when they are breaking the rules while others are blocked for breaking those rules.

“That’s the problem when you mix your personal morals into business isn’t it? Sooner or later you’ll find yourself on the other end of it, whining and complaining…”

You are correct, but this applies to EVERYONE. No one is an exception to this rule. You are every bit as hateful, full of piss and vinegar as a racist homophobic dirt bag. The only difference is that you are on the other side of the fence being every bit the bitch they are.

jimb says:

Re: Re: open and shut case

It absolutely does matter. Claiming it doesn’t is like saying marketing doesn’t matter. If people do not know you exist then you won’t get sales, or in this case downloads and installs. This seems that is precisely what Google is after here. The way to change it is to sue and get some of that marketing.

I bet when the first car was used to rob some place the establishment wanted to ban cars because they could easily outrun horses.

Or once encryption was used by terrorists the establishment tried to make it out as a tool or the alt-right terrorist. Or alt-left, depending on your point of view.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 open and shut case

This is what happens when political discourse goes too far to the right. Stop it.

Read this: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1DwJBWyyJycnPHKFlyEE6XWCghMYtOliu1P_uaODOA0M/edit#gid=1100033226

That’s where traditional left/right politics is.

As for Antifa, they’re a) not organised b) mostly anarchists and c) their violence is unacceptable because violence is unacceptable, whoever does it.

Now kindly drop the whataboutism and stop pretending that far right political positions are maintstream. They’re not.

And stop pretending that mainstream left wing positions are extreme. They’re not. Single payer wouldn’t end the world; it’d solve your healthcare delivery problem.

nerd bert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: open and shut case

The average smartphone user doesn’t change the ring tone, much less go in and mess with security settings. And when Google makes sideloading a two step procedure and tells them that it’s dangerous to sideload, well…

The only part of the complaint that really stands a chance is the fact that Google has effectively made the Play Store the only way to get apps for the vast majority of people. Forcing the sideloading of apps effectively bans them from 99+% of the market, and that’s where Google’s anticompetitive/monopolistic risk lies.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: open and shut case

As a juror, based on the information "currently available" I would be deciding in favor of gab. Hypocrisy rates pretty high on my list of things to nail folks to the wall over.

In which case you are someone who should be struck from any jury pool you find yourself in. Hypocrisy is not against the law, and using the power granted to you by the legal system to punish someone for doing something you don’t like but which isn’t illegal would be a blatant abuse of power.

radix (profile) says:

I can sort of see the logic

Comcast runs its own DNS server. If you (like the majority of Americans) use Comcast as your ISP, you probably run your internet traffic through those lookup servers. Of course you have the option to change that for your own setup, but the vast majority of people don’t even know that, let alone how to do it.

So if Comcast were to get angry with Techdirt’s coverage and block the domain from their DNS servers, a huge portion of the population would not be able to access the site. Due to the dominant market position, this would be seen unfavorably by most people, and perhaps the law. One could also (even somewhat convincingly) argue that Comcast has its own 1st Amendment right to block and display whatever it wants, but that sounds somewhat less credible from Net Neutrality supporters.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s pretty close. Google and Apple have both blocked something they disagree with, and as the dominant market access points, they bear a bit more burden to make sure they have a damned good reason for doing so.

Standards being inconsistently applied is a pretty good definition of arbitrary discrimination. If this were done at the website level rather than the app level, I feel like your position would be different, here.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: I can sort of see the logic

The problem with this argument is that, although what Google/Apple are doing may be “wrong”, legally there really is nothing that can be done about it. The first amendment only restricts government bodies and anti-trust laws were not designed to restrict abuses of monopoly power outside the economic sphere. This is why the lawsuit is struggling to find a law to hang itself on.

McFortner (profile) says:

Cheezus

“Alt-right” is the buzzword right now that SJWs use for anything they don’t agree with, regardless if their claims against it is correct or not. “But they use logo that is also used by the alt-right, so they must be evil!” Um, Antifa uses flags in their logo, so flags must be Antifa symbols of Antifa, right? So Google won’t show images of flags unless they are related to Antifa now. Right? Right?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Cheezus

“Alt-right” is a “buzzword” adopted by the people who actually call themselves that. The Gab app was developed by—and ostensibly for—people who either embrace the label “alt-right” or just accept it as a label for their specific sociopolitical community. And while an implicit judgment of “alt-right” ideologies may run through the article, the author did not explicitly condemn—or condone—the speech of anyone in that community. If anything, the article shows more sympathy for the “alt-right”/Gab community and their arguments than an otherwise “left-leaning” blog ever would.

Also, two addendums: One Antifa logo is a flag, but a flag is not necessarily an Antifa logo; and find a better argument than whining about people you hate.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Cheezus

“Alt-right” is a “buzzword” adopted by the people who actually call themselves that.

…and applied by liberal media to anyone they don’t like regardless of whether or not those people actually identify with the alt-right themselves.

Like anything, it’s a completely diluted and meaningless term now because it’s been abused so hard.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Cheezus

It is my understanding that the term was first used of the movement by its members, and that the pejorative use of it arose only when the media began pointing out (or people began pointing out to the media) that that word had an existing meaning.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_movement#.22Teabagger.22 has a brief commentary on the subject, but not much detail. I haven’t found a better source in shallow searching thus far.

I do remember TV coverage of someone wearing a wide-brimmed hat with tea bags hanging from the rim, espousing something like the positions of what would later come to be called the Tea Party; it is my understanding that this was done on purpose by the people involved in the original gatherings, to invoke the historical memory of the Boston Tea Party, and that it is this practice that gave is the movement its name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cheezus

"Alt-right" is the buzzword right now that SJWs use for anything they don’t agree with, regardless if their claims against it is correct or not.

It reminds me of a time, long ago, when a certain group of Internet commenters would use the buzzword "SJW" for anything they didn’t agree with.

Happily, that time has passed, as I’m sure that it will for "alt-right."

Anonymous Coward says:

How ironic!

How ironic that the alt-right, who would certainly argue that:

  • A baker need not put aside their morals to bake a cake for a same-sex couple
  • that Hobby Lobby should not have to put aside their morals and include birth control in their health care plans
  • or that some moron who was married several times can object to issuing a marriage license to same-sex couple

would now whine like a bitch when they are denied a platform to spew their nonsense.

Karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?

I guess you’ll have to do whatever the same-sex couple were supposed to do…go fuck yourself and find somewhere else to do business, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How ironic!

There is a lot of cognitive dissonance here.

“A baker need not put aside their morals to bake a cake for a same-sex couple”

I am okay with this and Google’s decision, provided that the rules state that but they don’t, that is the problem here. The rules do not state that certain applications are allowed to breach these rules. They are written in such a way as to denote that they apply to everything.

If a bakery had an “all customers welcome sign” in their window then I would rule against a bakery that denied a cake to a gay couple as well. Most establishments have a sign saying they reserve the right to refuse service without much qualifier, so if they can refuse you service for not wearing a shirt, then they can refuse you service for being gay. Not saying it the right thing to do, but their legal right to do so per the 1st and freedom of practice of religion.

“that Hobby Lobby should not have to put aside their morals and include birth control in their health care plans”

This pretty much is the same as the first and much for the same reasons. I also do not agree with government mandated you must pay for anything so I would not agree with forcing an insurance company to even pay for your Tylenol. If you don’t like that, then get a different provider.

“or that some moron who was married several times can object to issuing a marriage license to same-sex couple”

This one I do agree with you on. She had no business working for the government while simultaneously trying to enforce her beliefs on anyone. If the government says that gays can marry then she should have done her fucking job and issued the licenses provided they followed all the legal requirements.

“Karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?”

Did you say that to all of the people where this goes the other way? I am sure that if you receive a backlash on this you would not be screaming that karma is a bitch would you?

“I guess you’ll have to do whatever the same-sex couple were supposed to do…go fuck yourself and find somewhere else to do business, right?”

More of that dissonance… it’s okay for YOU to run off people you disagree with but it is NOT okay for people that disagree with you to run YOU off, now is it? funny, would karma be a bitch, or your bitch, if someone comes after you for that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How ironic!

More of that dissonance… it’s okay for YOU to run off people you disagree with but it is NOT okay for people that disagree with you to run YOU off, now is it?

Oh come on now, with all that whining.

No one’s running anyone off. Those who want Gab just have to side-load it. Just because the majority of users have no idea what that means isn’t really germane to the conversation isn’t it?

It isn’t as if the bakery was obligated to offer the same-sex couple instructions on where they could get a cake. Nor was the civil servant obligated to tell the same-sex couple how to actually get a marriage license, since she wasn’t going to do her job.

Corporations have feelings too. From the lowly baker, to the mouth breathing civil servant, to the mighty Google.

So yeah, they can fuck off, Google "side-load" and hope for the best. Sorry if you think that’s "dissonance" – you might want to look up the term. This is the new normal.

Buckle up!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: How ironic!

“Oh come on now, with all that whining.”

We make a nice Whiny Symphonic then eh?

“No one’s running anyone off. Those who want Gab just have to side-load it. Just because the majority of users have no idea what that means isn’t really germane to the conversation isn’t it? “

Again, that is not the point here. The point is that the rules set by the App Store are not being followed. I am okay with Google running them off provided that it is done in compliance with the rules they have set forth and that those rules are applied evenly across all other players.

“It isn’t as if the bakery was obligated to offer the same-sex couple instructions on where they could get a cake.”

True, they are not obligated to do anything, but the problem would be the same for the bakery, because in this case they would have been baking cakes for other same-sex couples but just not this one. So why do the others get a cake but not these?

“Nor was the civil servant obligated to tell the same-sex couple how to actually get a marriage license, since she wasn’t going to do her job.”

Actually, the civil servant is obligated to tell the same-sex couple how to get a marriage license to the best of her ability. If that clerk did not want to issue same-sex licenses then they needed to quit their job so someone else who would do it could have the job instead.

“Corporations have feelings too. From the lowly baker, to the mouth breathing civil servant, to the mighty Google.”

Corporations does not have feelings, but the people that comprise it do. They do not lose rights just because they are a business. The constitution does not state that you have these basic rights unless you are running a business.

“So yeah, they can fuck off, Google “side-load” and hope for the best. Sorry if you think that’s “dissonance” – you might want to look up the term. This is the new normal.”

That part is not the dissonance, the part where you advance the notion that because it is possible to side load that the App Store should walk away free and clear.. that is the dissonance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How ironic!

If that clerk did not want to issue same-sex licenses then they needed to quit their job so someone else who would do it could have the job instead.

But we both know that’s not how things shook out. Which is exactly why I have no sympathy for Gab or the tards who use it.

Corporations does not have feelings, but the people that comprise it do. They do not lose rights just because they are a business.

Right – Google is comprised of people as well.

That part is not the dissonance, the part where you advance the notion that because it is possible to side load that the App Store should walk away free and clear..

Perhaps that novel little tidbit will be tested in court with the PeeOTUS’s twitter account. Until then, I see no difference.

Sad day for the alt-right. You truly do reap what you sow, amirite?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 How ironic!

“Perhaps that novel little tidbit will be tested in court with the PeeOTUS’s twitter account. Until then, I see no difference.”

That is correct, Trumps twitter account is definitely getting away with more that what other normal accounts get away with. And I am in favor of legal sanctions against Twitter for that as well. They either enforce their rules evenly or they get into trouble.

“Sad day for the alt-right. You truly do reap what you sow, amirite?”

This is a universal truth. The piss and vinegar of the Alt-Right is not earning them a good rep the same way that the piss and vinegar of BLM is not earning them a good rep.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: How ironic!

Most establishments have a sign saying they reserve the right to refuse service without much qualifier, so if they can refuse you service for not wearing a shirt, then they can refuse you service for being gay.

They can only discriminate against queer people in cities, counties, and states where the law does not say it is illegal—which holds true in far more places within the US than even you might be comfortable with. And no federal law exists that outlaws anti-queer discrimination in public accomodations.

If you don’t like that, then get a different provider.

What happens if the only other providers carry with them an astronomical price tag because an employer refuses to sign off on it?

it’s okay for YOU to run off people you disagree with but it is NOT okay for people that disagree with you to run YOU off, now is it?

The people who “disagree” with people like me—queer people, that is—do so because I am queer; they want me either pushed out of society, in jail, or six feet under. I disagree with those people because I want them to treat me like a human being and respect my civil rights.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: How ironic!

Hobby Lobby and the Baker are two different situations. They are different because there’s actual ecclesiastical authority to back up Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby could also argue that it was being forced to engage in the practice in question.

The baker is just providing a good to some person. They aren’t being forced to cook shell fish, put cheese on meat, or handle pork.

They just don’t like the customer. Their inclination to discriminate isn’t even supported by doctrine.

The civil servant is yet another morally different situation that shouldn’t be lumped in with the others. Evaluating that situation requires different criteria from the others because it’s morally distinct.

These little details matter, regardless of which way you swing on any of these situations. Lumping them together is dishonest.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: How ironic!

Hobby Lobby and the Baker are two different situations. They are different because there’s actual ecclesiastical authority to back up Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby could also argue that it was being forced to engage in the practice in question.

Erm, no.

There’s nothing in the Bible to stop us using artificial contraception. That some hard-right Evangelicals have got on board with Roman Catholic doctrines is the problem [disclosure: I’m Protestant].

Again, Single Payer would solve the problem by getting your employers out of your healthcare. They shouldn’t be involved with it in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Somehow the definition of “Alt-right” continues expanding to everything dislikeable. Alt-right vegetables (broccoli). Alt-right vehicles (anything too loud). Alt-right communication (political opinion disagreed with by someone, somewhere).

A feedback loop has been created. The label is used by one person or publication. Then without critical thought picked up and carrier forward spreading the label.

In the specific case of gab.ai I see nothing to suggest it’s a twitter platform for only Nazi’s and the Daily Stormer. May as well label the internet alt-right for also hosting a tiny minority and pull the plug.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I read a lot … online and on paper and I have not seen any mention of “Alt-right vegetables”, “Alt-right vehicles” or “Alt-right communication”. Perhaps you have a few real life examples that you would like to share, otherwise your claims are unsupported allegations which carry no weight here.

You mention a feedback loop and then sort of describe what you mean but that is not feedback at all, it is simple repetition not unlike the telephone game which has no feedback at all – sorta the point of the game actually.

It is sad you feel persecuted but that may be caused by you, not others.

Anonymous Coward says:

As many have stated previously, a non government entity business venture, held publicly or privately, does not have any obligation to support any particular potential customer’s requests. For example, (no shirt – no service).

I find it interesting how some folk think that they are special and therefore demand their “contribution” be broadcast upon any platform they want it broadcast from regardless of the policy of said platform. Using inconsistencies in the implementation of said policy to wedge your whatever into the platform … is weak sauce.

What is even more interesting are those who claim “freedom of Speech” in their attempts to force their opinions upon non government business – because their “rights” – apparently their do not understand their constitutional rights

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I find it interesting how some folk think that they are special and therefore demand their “contribution” be broadcast upon any platform they want it broadcast from regardless of the policy of said platform. Using inconsistencies in the implementation of said policy to wedge your whatever into the platform … is weak sauce.”

Stupid like you does not ever end does it? That is not the problem here. The problem is Google arbitrarily enforcing policy, which is illegal and can get them into legal hot water.

You cannot make a rule that says, we will ban anyone promoting hate speech or allowing porn on their platform and then allow a platform to do just those exact things while telling another platform that they can’t and then banning them. That is the problem here. Either the App store allows them both or it bans them both until they adhere to the requirements set forth in the terms of service.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem is Google arbitrarily enforcing policy, which is illegal and can get them into legal hot water.

Pretty much all of the case law on CDA 230 says you’re completely and totally wrong. CDA 230(c)(2) says that a company shall not be held liable for "any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected."

The only way around that is to climb the very, very, very difficult mountain of arguing that Google’s actions here are not "taken in good faith." And I’m unaware of a single CDA 230 case that has successfully argued that such actions were not taken in good faith, and I see almost no path to argue here that the actions were not taken in good faith, despite what’s claimed in the lawsuit.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

My guess: The argument hinges on how Twitter contains all kinds of “objectionable” material and remains on the App Store, while Gab contains similarly “objectionable” material but got the boot. The real argument, then, hinges on how Gab admins/mods/higher-ups moderated their service as opposed to how Twitter’s team moderates their service.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

My guess: The argument hinges on how Twitter contains all kinds of “objectionable” material and remains on the App Store, while Gab contains similarly “objectionable” material but got the boot. The real argument, then, hinges on how Gab admins/mods/higher-ups moderated their service as opposed to how Twitter’s team moderates their service.

That’s meaningless for a CDA 230 analysis, honestly. CDA 230 is clear that the platforms get to decide. It says nothing about treating different users differently.

jimb says:

I mostly agree with this site’s analysis of all things tech dirt related. In this article the author does the despicable where he seems to claim this is an alt+right vs the left attack.

That should be corrected.

One factor that the article misses is that Google by now is likely a monopolist and is using that monopoly power to establish a monopoly in other markets.

Aside from gab being right in objecting to excessive use of power to stifle speech I think they are not really doing this to win. They are doing it to bring attention to the fact that a monopolist is abusing it’s power.

It might behoove Mike to go over the history of section 230 protection erosion if the party seeking coverage is actively engaged in censorship. Do they loose 230 protection if they attempt to censor (unless it is for some illegal act).

If we can’t be assured that a monopolist will not abuse their position then the government could simply use them as a proxy to stifle free speech with proxied censorship.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It might behoove Mike to go over the history of section 230 protection erosion if the party seeking coverage is actively engaged in censorship. Do they loose 230 protection if they attempt to censor (unless it is for some illegal act).

No, CDA 230 literally says the exact opposite. The whole point of CDA 230 was to encourage sites to take down content they didn’t like, and says that you get NO CIVIL LIABILITY (an absolute immunity) for the choices you make in moderating content on your platform.

So, the fact that the party is using it to take down legal content does not do away with 230 protections. It’s the point of 230 protections.

jimb says:

Re: Re: Re:

Thanks for replying Mike. I was pointing out that there was a discussion in the past, maybe several, that covered this exact question. Is censorship going to hurt section 230 protection? I know you say no, but I believe attacking it that way was a tactic used more than once. Saying no just stops the discussion. Have the courts ruled specifically on this?

I worry about the government pulling a McCarthyist tactic (a red scare) where anything alt-this or that can be censored at the government’s behest. This makes private censorship very dangerous and section 230 would protect the private entity and cover up government proxy’d censorship.

Anonymous Coward says:

> If we can’t be assured that a monopolist will not abuse their position then the government could simply use them as a proxy to stifle free speech with proxied censorship.

That is exactly what has been happening since August 2014. All of the online censorship has been driven from the top down by the billionaires running the corporates. The billionaires are taking orders from their governments, and the Western governments are taking orders from the Muslim governments. That’s why there was such a shitstorm about Qatar. They were involved in this, but so were several others.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have to say, I was hesitant at first to accept your argument for why the headline and argument were so flawed, to the point that the entire article is invalid, yet your detailed and well presented case for this has certainly convinced me.

Truly, your mastery of the written word is without peer, and your ability to present your case and back it up with supporting arguments and evidence is enough to bring those who you rightly chastise to their knees in defeat.

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