Alt-Right Website Gab Attracts Bolsonaro Supporters in Brazil

(Bloomberg) -- A social network popular among the U.S. alt-right is one of the favorite web destinations for supporters of former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian presidential candidate with the largest number of social media followers.

Gab.ai, a network set up two years ago as an alternative to Twitter, is among the top-five websites cited by Bolsonaro’s supporters on Twitter, according to a study by Alto Data Analytics, a firm that applies artificial intelligence in its analysis of big data. It is also the only non-Brazilian website among the 30 most-shared domains that make reference to the country’s Oct. 7 presidential election, the study found.

Bolsonaro’s supporters tout many of the same themes that were popular among the U.S. alt-right during the election of Donald Trump: disdain for political correctness, hardcore support of gun-owner rights, and conspiracy theories often involving the mainstream media. Bolsonaro, who himself frequently disparages minorities and reminisces about Brazil’s military rule, leads opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s first-round vote.

Flavio Bolsonaro, one of his sons, has a verified profile on Gab, although it only has one post. Another of his sons, Eduardo, in August posted a photo of himself with Steve Bannon, Trump’s former strategist and a leading figure in the alt-right movement, saying they share the same worldview.

Gab is a platform with looser rules against discriminatory or hate speech and has attracted Bolsonaro supporters, particularly after many of them were banned from Twitter earlier this year. The Gab app isn’t available on Apple’s app store and has been banned from Google’s. On its community guidelines, Gab states: “We believe that the only valid form of censorship is an individual’s own choice to opt-out."

To be sure, the 31,363 times the Gab domain was shared on social media is dwarfed by the 363,816 that Brazil’s leading website uol.com.br was shared, according to Alto Data Analytics.

Bolsonaro’s spokespeople didn’t respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment for this story. Gab.ai didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Luring Bolsonaro

Gab’s founder, Andrew Torba, has repeatedly shown support for Bolsonaro as he tries to lure the Brazilian front-runner into his website.

“When Bolsonaro joins Gab, Twitter will be dead in Brazil and the media will panic!,” he wrote on his profile last month, with a picture of the Brazilian politician lifting a glass and looking to the camera. When Bolsonaro was stabbed last month, Torba published a post saying "DAMN THESE COMMIES!" In another, he said the more videos of Bolsonaro he saw, the more he liked the candidate.

Bolsonaro’s campaign has been built around strong social media presence and scarce investments in advertising. Among the top-five websites cited in pro-Bolsonaro comments on social networks, none belong to large media companies nor political parties, according to Alto Data Analytics data.

Gab.ai is run by a company based in Philadelphia, according to annual report dated March 1 and filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

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