Published: 25.03.2021 | Edited: 25.03.2021 | Tags: 100daystooffload

Rules in the Fediverse

There are many ways people communicate and share ideas. Or memes. Or anime girls. No matter what you are a fan of, there is some place in the Internet for it. I am almost sure.

What's more interesting, is the fact, that due to abundance of software contributions, it is becoming easier to start a place in the Internet for people to talk about a given niche, or, even more important, communicate under the clear set of rules they all agree on.

Why are clear rules important here? Isn't a point of creating a custom space to avoid the rules? That is the point - avoiding the rules enforced by the other guys. But rules for communication are still important, it keeps people adhering to a given standard, generally gluing them together.

Fediverse instance rules

Many Fediverse instances publish moderation rules for its members to follow, like cat posts only or more realistically, no extremist content. This is similar to Reddit's subredits and if speaking strictly about the microbloging Fediverse platforms, like Mastodon or Pleroma, it's dissimilar to the mainstream player in this area, Twitter.

Wait, isn't Twitter's Terms of Service (ToS) the rules there? Well, no. There are not moderation rules describing what Twitter users should or should not post about. It's a binding legal contact. For Twitter, data retention is a norm. It's what's happen with the data further why this document is so long. Many Fediverse instances also publish their ToS, and they tend to be easier to read and understand, usually concerning data-retention policy. Yeah, at least for now, describing if your data are even kept on the server for a period of time and not deleted is what is discussed and it stops there.

Unpredictable rules

So the moderation rules and the ToS are the predictable rules. Since Twitter allows everyone publish everything, does it have any moderation rules? Yes it does. But they are unpredictable. You never know what does Twitter displays to whom, or even when and it is not publicly described anywhere. I mean, managing that many users has to work in some way, and for many, it is the way they enjoy, or at least accept.

Then there are others who like the predictability of the outcomes of their posting habits. One of the solution these people chose is to either join the Fediverse instance or create their own.

Single-user instances

It is less common with Mastodon due to it's higher memory footprint, but more common with lighter implementations to be run as a single-user instance. It means there could be no no moderation rules nor Terms of Service and it could still run just fine, due to the fact that instances federate together, which means they talk to each other. This is where the Fediverse got its name.

The ToS do only apply on the users that are only members of the instance the user has joined. However, what happens when a user from a another instance regularly posts content that does not follow local moderation rules? Well, they might not even be aware of the fact that they are posting something that breaks someone else's rules. They would have to check every single instance rules and find the intersection.

It is not a problem, the administration of the instance an simply block users or entire instances and the content won't be shown locally. It requires manual work, but it is completely predictable.

It is fascinating me that the existence of the single-user instances proofs that the communication can be effective even without enforcing ToS or moderation rules to anyone. Without even writing them. It feels very simplistic to me.

The handle on my single-user instance is @peter, feel free to federate with me.

This is a 15th post of #100daystooffload.