Mastodon’s federated nature makes it highly-resistant to takeover by oligarchs, and even more highly-resistant to destruction, but it does have its downsides.
One is localized shutdowns. A very popular mastodon server (mastodon.lol, 17k active) is shutting down completely because the owner is tired of dealing with the messages he’s been getting, and doesn’t want to pass control to anyone else, since he pledged absolute privacy for existing members. Another popular server (mastodon.au, 6.5k active) announced a shutdown, but has apparently been rescued by someone who is operating it in what he calls “no-new-users mode.” In both cases, three months notice was given, and mastodon allows people who move from one server to another to take their following/followers list with them, but not their post/comment history.
So that one is a negative with some positive aspects (90 days notice, partial migration options).
The other is defederation. Again, there are positives and negatives to this. More positives than negatives overall, but definitely negative for me personally. On the one hand, it’s very easy to block bad actors at a high level so that individual users need not even be aware they exist. On the other hand, server owners can defederate from any other server at any time for any reason, and there is no recourse or appeal for anyone involved. I happen to be on a server with an admin who seems to rub people the wrong way. While some very active blockers acknowledge that my server shouldn’t be blocked on that basis alone, others have decided that since this server’s admin doesn’t defederate as much as they would like, he should himself be defederated.
It’s clear that this server is an edge case for some people. Strict policies against racism and hate speech and so on seem to be enforced, and nobody can seem to point to any examples of bad actors whose accounts haven’t been suspended, but the owner insists on using the “academic free speech” label, which is one word longer than a label used by people fond of hate speech, and his attempts to get people to look closer and realize it’s a well-moderated server sound suspiciously like the sea-lioning people fond of hate speech frequently engage in.
A more principled person might stand their ground and insist that right is right, and pressuring people into defederating is intolerant bullying, but honestly, if I had known it was going to be such an issue, I’d probably have switched servers before writing and boosting 850 posts, many of which are longer than the maximum length allowed by most mastodon servers.
Now I’m in this spot where, during Black History Month, I’m boosting @mekkaokereke’s daily posts about white history, but he doesn’t know that, because his server limits mine. I’ve recommended that people follow him, but I myself cannot, because he is set to approve all followers, and he’ll never see my request because, again, his server limits mine. I’ve posted comments in response to his posts that have picked up some engagement, as people have starred and boosted my comment far and wide, but he’ll never know that. In fact, although qoto.org does not actually appear on the hachyderm.io list of blocked (defederated) servers, it’s clear that server has limited mine. That means that I can see his content when others boost it, but he can’t see mine unless he follows me, which he won’t because he doesn’t know I exist.
I noticed just today that one of his recent posts has five responses I can see on my server, including my own, and also has five responses on his server, including one I can’t see on my server. His server doesn’t list my popular comment, but does list a comment from another server that completely blocks mine.
And that’s weird! It’s confusing if you don’t understand what’s happening, and a definite downside that people who probably agree on everything are blocked from seeing each other because of disagreements at some other level out of their control. I do have some recourse: I could switch servers. I probably will someday. But that recourse is not without downsides itself.
I could switch to a single-user instance, and then I would be nobody’s mercy. But I would also have to work hard to build up the view I have now, since my local feed would be only me, and my federated feed would reach no farther than the servers I already know about. I could switch to another big instance, but even they don’t seem to be immune to shutdowns or defederation, as mastodon.art (8k active) blocking mastodon.social (146k active) demonstrates.
I could have picked a different starting server, but I was told over and over that “it doesn’t really matter,” and this one has a lot of upsides along with this downside.
Ultimately, the federated web is messy, and I don’t think there’s a solution that doesn’t make things worse for those on the receiving end of targeted harassment. I’d rather deal with this than be subject to the whims of a single owner, but at least I’m aware – and now you are aware – that there are some downsides.
@pwinn They switched from blocked to silence(aka limited) and then unblocked completely. I suppose it was somewhat of an evolution of thinking over there. If they had kept it at any level I probably would have migrated to another instance, probably hachyderm.io ironically. Hachyderm was the only instance I wanted to follow people on where blocking prevented it. The other instances that block qoto I can do without.
Following the rabbit trail of related issues, it looks like they think the next version (4.1?) of mastodon will fix the issue. No clue when they will be rolling that out though.
QOTO: Question Others to Teach Ourselves
An inclusive, Academic Freedom, instance
All cultures welcome.
Hate speech and harassment strictly forbidden.