Gab, a social platform that welcomes those who have been banned by mainstream social networks for posting hate speech (think Alex Jones and Andrew Anglin, operator of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer), has had a tough time securing a cryptocurrency payment processor after getting deplatformed by the likes of PayPal and Stripe. But it’s finally found a hospitable service.
Gab made it into headlines after one of the platform’s users, Robert Bowers, murdered 11 congregants at the Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27. Just before committing the mass shooting, Bowers had written a threatening message on Gab that singled out the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The following media coverage brought awareness to the “free speech”-touting social platform, and the deplatforming began. Besides payment processors like PayPal and Stripe, web hosting services like GoDaddy and Joyent also refused to host the social network.
Since them, Gab has found a new domain registrar in Epik and has been raising money through an ICO on StartEngine. All the while, it’s been searching for ways to process donations from supporters.
First, Coinbase refused Gab. So on November 20, Gab’s CEO Andrew Torba posted, “We will be integrating BitPay asap because Coinbase already banned us.”
The next day, Torba had an important update for Gab users. “We’ve been banned by BitPay the cryptocurrency payment processor,” he wrote above a message from BitPay, which stated Gab’s account with the company would be deactivated on November 28. A representative from BitPay confirmed to BREAKER that the payment processor refused integration with Gab (BitPay declined to comment further).
Now, Gab is looking into using the cryptocurrency payment processor BTCPay Server, according to a post on its platform by the official Gab account on November 28. “Gab is the quintessential example for why bitcoin exists,” the account wrote. “We are working to integrate BTCPay Server because even ‘crypto payment processors’ like Coinbase have banned us.” Nicolas Dorier, the creator of BTCPay Server, told BREAKER via Twitter that “as far as he knows,” Gab has integrated the payment processor successfully.
BREAKER reached out to both Torba (on Gab) and a man who identifies as “Tom from Gab” on BTCPay Server’s Slack channel to confirm, but hasn’t heard back yet. However, conversations in the general BTCPay Server Slack channel show people working with Tom to help set Gab up with the processor, advising on various wallets to use (Dorier suggested hardware wallet Ledger) and discussing how to convert fiat currency to crypto (“RockstarDev” brought up some possibilities).
BTCPay Server is free and open-source, according to its GitHub page, and lets users avoid reliance on a third party when processing cryptocurrency transactions (though it does allow for the option to use a third-party host if you’re “not comfortable setting it up” yourself). The decentralized nature of BTCPay Server means it can’t ban a social network like Gab from using it, “as bitcoin core can’t prevent anyone from using it,” Dorier wrote to us. Dorier says—unrelated to Gab—he is currently working to “push down the price and technical barriers for people to become a server.”
While Gab works on getting a new crypto payment method up and running, it’s invited users to offer financial support by mailing checks to a P.O. Box in Pennsylvania. As the person who identified as Tom wrote in the BTCPay Server Slack, the Gab community is “mostly normie/boomers,” for whom “bitcoin is scary.” So the social platform is searching for easy ways to let its users donate fiat that can be converted into bitcoin.
Gab’s struggle to find a cryptocurrency payment processor seems to mark a shift in the cryptocurrency payments space. It’s starting to look more like the world inhabited by fiat currency processors—as in, less Wild West/Libertarian and more regulated, even socially conscious.
In Gab’s post announcing its intentions to use BTCPay Server, the platform’s official account wrote, “We are even more convinced that bitcoin and crypto are the future because they have to be for us. It has been a total and complete nightmare going through the underwriting process to find a new payment processor.”
Generally, alt-right actors have been less active with cryptocurrency payments since the initial spike around the Unite the Right Charlottesville rally in August 2017. With the crypto enthusiasm waning among this group, a social platform that welcomes members of the alt-right shifting to cryptocurrency payments faces a couple of challenges—centralized crypto processors getting more socially conscious on the one hand, and users being unfamiliar with the technology that allows for cryptocurrency transactions on the other.