The Internet server company that hosts the controversial social media network Gab has been subpoenaed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the office confirmed.
Gab is a social media site that has been criticized for providing a platform for white nationalism and anti-Semitism. The suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings last month was a Gab user.
In the days after the shooting, several companies, including cloud host Joyent, domain registrar GoDaddy, and digital payment companies Stripe and Paypal, cut ties and suspended Gab’s accounts. This forced the site to shut down for more than a week.
Gab got back online with the help of Epik, a move that triggered the investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general.
Robert Monster, CEO of Epik, says he didn’t make the decision to host Gab’s host network lightly. In a statement, he wrote that he believes in Andrew Torba’s ability to be a “responsible steward” and warned against silencing opinions on the Internet.
“These days there are many kinds of online content that some people find objectionable,” Monster wrote, pointing out the need for a balance between free will and personal responsibility.
“In the case of Gab.com, there is a duty to monitor and lightly curate, keeping content within the bounds of the law.”
Joe Grace, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office has confirmed that a subpoena was issued to Epik. But he he declined to comment further citing the case as an ongoing investigation.
NPR has reached out to Epik and Gab. Epik declined an interview.
Gab was thrust into the spotlight last month, because shortly before the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue, the suspect Robert Bowers posted angry comments about a Jewish nonprofit on Gab. He wrote, “Screw your optics – I’m going in.”
Gab’s CEO Andrew Torba has continued to defend the site as a platform for free speech.
In an interview last month, Torba told NPR that Gab does have a policy of removing speech that is threatening. But he also said that what the synagogue shooting suspect wrote didn’t sound like a direct threat to him.
NPR’s Jasmine Garsd contributed to this report.