Andrew Torba, the founder and CEO of Gab, has said he will not be complying with the German Network Enforcement Act, despite mounting legal fines from authorities.
In a blog post published on Sept. 20, Tora said he had received a “huge packet of documents with fines and legal threats from the nation state of Germany” this week but that Gab is “refusing, and has refused for many years, to comply with the German Network Enforcement Act.”
The German Network Enforcement Act went into force in Germany on June 28, 2021, in the hopes of combating online hate speech and fake news. Also known as NetzDG, it applies to social media networks that have 2 million or more registered users in Germany and obligates them to remove content that is “clearly illegal” within 24 hours of receiving a complaint from a user.
Social media networks that do not comply can be fined up to 50 million euros (about US$59.2 million) by the German government for noncompliance.
Gab is a U.S. company that was founded in 2016. The social networking site “champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online” and is a competitor to larger companies such as Twitter and Facebook, along with upstarts such as Parler.
In Monday’s blog post, Torba referred to the Network Enforcement Act as “a draconian German law aimed at combatting ‘fake news’ on social networking websites,” adding that “fake news is of course, whatever the German Government says it is.”
“Gab is a US company and as such we are under zero obligation to obey foreign laws from tyrannical governments,” the CEO wrote.
“Because of Gab’s unwillingness to participate in State-mandated censorship of free speech, the German government is now coming after our bootstrapped tech startup with heavy fines and other legal action,” he continued.
The CEO noted that Gab is “not a lawless website” and that staff work diligently to prevent any illegal activity, including criminal activity, from taking place on the platform while a number of foreign countries respect the social network site’s stance on free speech.
“The German government isn’t concerned about any actual criminal activity, they are concerned with Thought Criminals who dare to dissent against their globalist regime,” Torba wrote.
Torba noted that he has three options in dealing with the actions from the German government; obey the censorship laws and start censoring content that it doesn’t like—something he said the company will not do; disobey the laws and “pick a fight” with the government; or temporarily block German IPs from accessing the website.
“I hate everything about these choices, which is why we went public with this information to gather feedback and consensus from our community on the topic,” he wrote, before stating that Gab’s lawyers also suggest option three would be the best one, although it “doesn’t sit right” with him.
“Why should we block an entire country from accessing Gab because their government is sending us fines we won’t pay and veiled legal threats that mean nothing to Gab as a US corporation? … The reality is the German government has zero authority or jurisdiction over how we operate Gab. We have no corporate entity in Germany, we have no employees in Germany, and we are not German citizens. We are Americans,” Torba wrote.
While the CEO will not be obliging with the German Network Enforcement Act and the authorities’ subsequent legal threats, Torba noted that he will still cooperate with German police forces in “matters pertaining to serious crime.”
“I’m not sure what will come of this decision, but I will not make an important choice like this from a position of fear. I leave the outcomes of this decision in the hands of God Almighty and I pray that the German people will take back their country and freedoms very soon,” he added.
Torba’s announcement comes shortly after Apple and Google removed a voting app from its online store that was linked to Kremlin critic and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, just as polls opened across Russia for three days of voting in a parliamentary election.
The move was prompted after Russian authorities put pressure on the U.S. tech giants to remove the app from their stores, noting that Russia designates Navally’s antics as “extremist” and saying a refusal to remove the app would be treated as meddling in its parliamentary election while also threatening the companies with fines.