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Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

PayPal has cut ties with social networking service Gab following news that Pittsburgh gunman Robert Bowers — who killed 11 people at Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday — had a history of using the platform for anti-Semitic speech, reports The Verge.

The big picture: Gab was founded in 2016 as a restriction-free alternative to Twitter, a social network that — while claiming "to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people" — has attracted alt-right figures like Milo Yiannapolous and Richard Spencer that have been banned from other social media platforms.

The backdrop: This isn't the first time that Gab has come under scrutiny from tech companies for allowing hate speech to run unfiltered on its platform.

  • Apple has, on numerous occasions, refused to host Gab on its App Store for "objectionable content," including "references to religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or other targeted groups that could be offensive to many users."
  • Google removed Gab from its Play Store in August 2017 for violating its hate speech policy, per The Verge.
  • In August 2018, Microsoft threatened to stop Gab from using its Azure cloud service after it received complaints about Gab posts that advocated ‘ritual death by torture’ and the ‘complete eradication’ of all Jews.

Seventeen days ago, a Gab account under Bowers' name posted a list of congregations that partner with HIAS, a refugee agency founded to provide aid to Jews, writing, "We appreciate the list of friends you have provided."

  • On Saturday morning, moments before entering the synagogue, Bowers posted,"HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

The bottom line: Gab issued a statement after the shooting saying it "unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence." But its founder has previously said the platform is "not going to police what is hate speech and what isn't," raising questions about whether both those claims can be true in the era of Big Tech.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.