MOOSIC, Pa. -- Authorities say that just before the deadly synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh, suspect Robert Bowers posted a series of anti-Semitic rants on a website described by critics as right wing and promoting hate speech.
The founder of the website is well known in Lackawanna County where he grew up and went to college.
The website Gab.com was taken offline, but its founder, Moosic native Andrew Torba, is facing questions about posts on the site. Torba calls himself a conservative and says he created the site to counter what he called censorship by the liberal tech companies in Silicon Valley, California.
Torba grew up in a Moosic neighborhood of modest homes and middle-class families. He graduated from Riverside High School in Taylor in 2009 and from the University of Scranton in 2013 where one of his friends knew him as a computer whiz.
The University of Scranton Journal featured Torba for his education minor in entrepreneurship where he and others won a college business plan competition.
After graduating, online posts show Torba moving from tech and entrepreneurial work to conservative politics.
In 2016, Torba founded Gab.com which, according to published reports, is a site frequented by white supremacists.
"But it really is a cesspool for hate. If you go on this website, it is just terrible, the worst kind of anti-Semitic, racist, sexist comments are on there, and not only are they on there, but those comments thrive on that platform," said CNN media analyst Oliver Darcy.
Gab.com gained attention this weekend after Bowers, the alleged mass murderer at a Pittsburgh synagogue, used the website to announce his intent to kill moments before the shooting.
Investigators in Pittsburgh say Bowers frequently targeted Jews in his Gab.com posts before targeting them in person.
Via email, Andrew Torba tells the media Gab.com is "proudly working with the DOJ and FBI, plenty of evidence for their case."
While Gab.com has been taken offline, Torba vows it will be back up, adding, "80 percent of normal, everyday people agree with Gab.com and support free expression and liberty… People are waking up, so please keep pointing the finger at a social network instead of pointing the finger at the alleged shooter who holds sole responsibility for his actions."
Torba left Lackawanna County after graduating from the University of Scranton. He did not return email requests for comment.