Experts say what people post online affects their life outside of cyberspace

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Gab is known for being an "alt-right" website that bills itself as a haven for free speech. It's the same website Robert Bowers, the suspected Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, used to post anti-semitic messages the day he killed 11 people.

After the shooting, its host provider Go Daddy, cut ties with the website giving Gab 24 hours to find a new host. It looks like that has happened. Both Gab and the CEO of the Seattle-based company took to Twitter to announce that is taking on, as a registrar client.

Search results for still show a message from CEO Andrew Torba that replaced the site earlier this week. That message promises that Gab will return. It also defends the 'no restrictions' nature of the website by saying quote "the internet is not reality."

Is what we do online real? The CEO of Gab says no. But experts argue with that logic, pointing out that mass shooters have posted about their intentions online before attacks. They say what we do online can have repercussions and thoughts typed out on a keyboard can leave an impression on the mind.

Dr. Candice Lanius is an assistant professor at UAH specializing in social data. She says the remark in a letter written by Gab CEO Andrew Torba is concerning.

"Based on research and also common sense and the experiences we have every day, completely false. It's called the digital dualism fallacy and its the idea that what happens in the real world is completely separate than what happens online," she said.

Lanius says what people post bleeds out into their everyday life.

"Things you say online impact you in real life," says Lanius. "Whether it's because people saw them or because you have internalized the discourse that you have said over and over again."

Again, Bowers used the site Gab. In his profile's bio, he said: "Jews are the children of Satan". Before the shooting, he wrote an anti-semitic post.

"You can't just say hate speech every day for hours online and then expect it to not have an outcome on your life. That's why you see these things happening; is people find a community they get to share these things they get community validation and then they act on that," Dr. Lanius said.

PeopleSec Chief Hacker Joshua Crumbaugh says combing through social media pages of mass shooters often shows clues of their intentions before the attack.

"It always does seem, or almost always does seem, that social media element throughout there they're saying that are key red flags and indicators ahead of time," he said.

Hindsight is 20/20. He believes the information comes to light much too late.

Crumbaugh says there are many cooperations between private companies and law enforcement to flag posts that may be malicious. But the amount of data being created by individuals every day is overwhelming. Technology hasn't been able to sort through and determine what is dangerous and what isn't.

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