Doctoral student Brian Hughes was interviewed by NPR All Things Considered on November 8, 2018 in the story “Gab Server Subpoenaed By Pennsylvania Attorney General.” Hughes, who studies the alt-right’s presence on the Internet, discussed so-called “censorship free” social media sites, the business and financial implications of controversies linked to these sites, and the dangers of these implications for democracy overall.
Specifically, Hughes discussed social media site Gab in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, in which businesses such as GoDaddy and others cut ties with the platform, leading to a dwindled vitality. “It really creates a ‘winner take all’ scenario, where there can really only be one Twitter, there can be only one Facebook…,” explains Hughes.
Hughes also discussed his opinion that the longevity of these sites, which provide a platform for hate groups, is short-lived. However, he elaborated, more dangerous implications within the next generation may be that hate groups move to the Dark Web, where they will be unsearchable by traditional search engines and browsers. As a result, these platforms “would not subject to the same kind of oversight from journalists and other people that we typically expect to keep an eye on these things for the health of our democracy,” says Hughes.