Opinion

NC legislator says he didn’t know Gab promoted hate when he invested in it. Here’s what the clues say.

Republican Sen. Dan Bishop
Republican Sen. Dan Bishop

How much did North Carolina Sen. Dan Bishop know about Gab when he invested in the site in August 2017?

Not much, he said Wednesday in response to a report in The Daily Mail revealing that Bishop, who represents Mecklenburg County, had invested $500 in the site popular with white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Gab also was frequented by Robert Bowers, the alleged gunman who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last week.

Bishop, however, indicated Wednesday that he wasn’t aware the site had ties to hate speech when he made his investment. “I made a $500 crowdfunding investment 14 months ago in a startup called Gab, which promoted itself as a new, unbiased media platform,” he tweeted. “I don’t use Gab, but if its management allows its users to promote violence, anti-Semitism, and racism on the platform they have misled investors and they will be gone quickly, and rightly so.”

But let’s go back to Aug. 17, the day Bishop told Facebook friends he had “just invested” in Gab.

On that day, Gab had been operating for a year after launching in August 2016. It had amassed $1 million-plus from more than 1,000 investors, and it already was well-known as a controversial social network for the far right.

In fact, the Washington Post article Bishop cites in his Aug. 17 Facebook post — “Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy despite free speech concerns” — detailed how tech companies were taking action against sites that handled hate content and were home to hate groups. In that report, Gab is mentioned prominently as being “founded in August 2016 by Silicon Valley engineers alienated by the region’s liberalism.”

Also, on the very same day that Bishop said he invested in Gab, the site’s app was banned from the Google Play store for hate speech.

To believe Bishop’s remarks this week, you also would need to believe he wasn’t aware in 2017 of Gab’s links to hate groups — despite common knowledge and the article he cited — and that he did he not investigate or even explore the site before giving it $500 of his money.

And remember, all of this was happening less than a week after the Unite the Right rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville. Hate speech and hate groups were front and center in the country’s consciousness. Bishop might have merely been making a principled stand about free speech — as he suggests then and now — but it was a stand in the middle of a significant national debate on hate speech in which he was taking the side shared by white supremacists and other racists and bigots. It was the wrong side to take, then and now.

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