What just happened? After Parler was shut down, many of its users flocked to a similar platform called Gab, which was recently hacked. The treasure trove includes both public and private data on 15,000 Gab users, which will provide journalists and researchers with an important sociological resource.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that social media app Parler had been used as a means to organize the January 6 assault on the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. By downloading and archiving almost all of the data posted on Parler before it was booted off of Amazon Web Services, security researchers revealed the ugly side of a social network that appealed to people with extreme political views.
Two months later, a similar thing is happening to a different digital refuge called Gab, which is where many of Parler’s users migrated after Parler was shut down. According to Wired, a hacker embarked on a quest to expose Gab’s patrons and was able to extract data out of backend databases using a SQL injection vulnerability.
The resulting treasure trove spans more than 70 gigabytes of data on the platform’s users and includes more than 40 million posts from the site. This represents public and private interactions between ~15,000 Gab users and is accompanied by records detailing user profiles, hashed passwords, and plain-text passwords for groups.
There are no images or videos, but this is still an extensive data breach that reportedly includes the accounts of prominent personalities such as former President Donald Trump, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Infowars host Alex Jones. The company, however, denies that it suffered a data breach and assured Gab users that their passwords have not been revealed.
Anti-secrecy activist group DDoSecrets has compiled the data into something it calls GabLeaks, with the intention of providing it to select journalists, social scientists, and researchers for further analysis. This prompted a response from Gab CEO Andrew Torba, who described the hacktivists as “mentally ill” demons. He also noted “reporters, who write for a publication that has written many hit pieces on Gab in the past, are in direct contact with the hacker and are essentially assisting the hacker in his efforts to smear our business and hurt you, our users.”
Whatever the case may be, the data will likely provide researchers with a good tool to study how disinformation campaigns, hate speech, and organized violence propagate from one platform to the next.