Decentralised Social Media And The Fediverse: A Great Big Fantasy

Imagine what the world was like before the so-called "information superhighway" came to be. Outside of mail, if you wanted to chat with people from other countries, you had to pack up and head for a visit. With the internet, we are now able to talk to people around the world easily, however, the web itself now has the issue that the real world used to have. Think of every website you use as a different country. Let's say you are from the country of Instagram, but you want to visit people from Twitter (for some reason). Well, you will need to get your passport (I.E. create an account) and head over there yourself if you wish to speak to them. Now imagine if you did not need to do this, let's say you could open up your Instagram DMs, type the Twitter account's username in the "send to" field, and then talk to them all from the cosy bubble of your preferred communication app. Sounds cool right? Well, unfortunately, humans suffer from a disease called human nature, which ultimately stops this from truly working. This article will be about my own experiences with decentralised social media, and why I feel that decentralisation is but a dream, at least for now.

For starters, there are 2 main platforms for decentralised social communication, Mastodon, and Plemore. I used Mastodon in this case, but the general idea goes for all software talked about today. When you decide to sign up for mastodon, you will notice something right away. Mastodon is not its own website necessarily, but rather, the software which decentralised platforms run on. In theory, you could sign up for an account on the official mastodon website, Mastodon Online, and see "toots" as they're called, from all other mastodon instances around the globe, but this is where the human nature comes in. If the hosts of a mastodon instance do not like another instance, they can block all communications between the platforms, meaning that your platform of choice would act as if the blocked instance never existed at all. This is not okay. I can understand "muting" an instance, for example; no toots or accounts from that instance show up on the timeline, but you can still follow them or message eachother if you wish. However, completely blocking an instance just defeats the purpose of decentralisation. It does not help that there is obvious bias of some instances as well. In my case, I signed up at mstdn.jp, a Japanese Mastodon instance. Due to the reputation of another Mastodon instance called Pawoo, I am subjected to more restrictions from other instances.

Pawoo, ironically enough, is both the most popular Mastodon instance, and the most blocked. The reason it is the most blocked is due to the fact that it was created/backed by Pixiv, a Japanese website for sharing artwork, that just so happens to allow lolicon content. This means that artists on Pawoo have no restrictions for posting that kind of content as well. Needless to say, lolicon is not something that many countries consider to be lawful, with even the 'ole U.S. of A considering it a "legal grey area". I, for one, do not endorse loli shit, which is why I just signed up at mstdn.jp instead, as they have a more firm ruleset in place for these things. Because of the stigma of Pawoo, and the fact that mstdn.jp still allows other kinds of NSFW content (think hentai), it has been caught in the crossfire of Pawoo's block from many instances. This means that the moment I signed up, I was already banned from talking to lots of people from other instances. There are times where this makes at least SOME sense, such as blocking the website "nazi social", which is federated, though even then; I fail to see why you can't just hide the content while allowing communication between users, which is what this whole thing is supposed to be about. (Sidenote: another downside is that projects like Mastodon lead to a lot of political extremism from both sides.)

Now all of this, while still a considerable factor, fails to factor in the fact that some administrators are just assholes. Note that while I am about to briefly mention something that may be seen as political, I am in no way trying to bring up politics, nor does any of the following represent my personal views in any way. With the disclaimer out of the way, I would like to cite the example of Distro Tube. I do not normally watch YouTube channels, but being that this was about Mastodon, it caught my eye. Distro Tube, despite being a member of an instance since its very beginning/inception, was kicked off the instance for simply stating Donald Trump was a former Democrat in one of his YouTube videos. He talked about this whole fiasco here. First of all, he did not even talk about these things on the instance itself. It was entirely talked about on his personal YouTube channel, which had nothing to do with Mastodon. Secondly, he was not in any way endorsing Donald Trump at all. For crying out loud, the man has a cat named after Barack Obama. But still, just for stating, on his own personal SEPERATE account, a completely true fact from the public record, the admin told him to GTFO. That is unacceptable. Granted, he did not mind *too* much since he wanted a reason to make his own instance. Regardless, incidences like this are why I feel federated social networks are doomed to fail before they truly take off.

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