‘Decentralized’ Social Network Mastodon Moves to Censor Free Speech Platform Gab
Mastodon, a theoretically decentralized online platform, is moving to limit the activities of Gab, a social network that closely adheres to First Amendment principles.
Mastodon is an open-source social network that theoretically enables a decentralized network of online communities to thrive. Anyone can set up a Mastodon server, appoint moderators, and add it to the network of communities known as the “Fediverse.”
However, although its technology is built around the principles of decentralization and federated content moderation, Mastodon’s leadership leans to the left.
The project was set up in part because left-wing techies thought content moderation on platforms like Twitter didn’t go far enough, and wanted to allow left-wingers to create their own decentralized versions of it with tighter banning policies. “Mastodon is like Twitter without the Nazis,” declared Sarah Jeong (famous for her racist tweets about white people) in 2017.
However, the very decentralized principles that allowed SJWs to set up Mastodon-based communities with trigger warnings and censorship on steroids also allowed free speech platform Gab to create a community based on First Amendment principles. By using Mastodon’s open source technology to provide a new mobile app to its users, Gab would theoretically be able to bypass Apple and Google’s anti-competitive bans of its original smartphone app.
The left-wingers behind Mastodon and many of the smartphone-based platforms built with the project’s software have swiftly acted to contain Gab.
“Tusky (Android) and Toot! (iOS) have blacklisted Gab’s domains from their login screens. Gab users will not be able to use these apps to access or post from Gab. We do not currently know if any other apps are doing the same. Mastodon itself allows instance owners to decide which domains to block. Most servers in the Fediverse are already blocking the Gab domains and we have done the same a mastodon.social.”
All this comes as Gab has tried to work around the blocks it had faced in launching its apps on Apple’s and Google’s app stores – by releasing a new, open-source, Mastodon-based version on July 4 – and making use of the common protocol underlying the open technologies to allow its users to sign onto the platform and use it on their phones, as well as on the web.
Reacting to Mastodon’s restrictive move, Gab’s Twitter account said that the Mastodon community was “sabotaging their own app developers with mass flagging/reporting of any app that does not block Gab’s domain.”
Because Mastodon is an open source software project, spread out among a myriad of independent servers, attempting to censor Gab across the Fediverse is much like attempting to censor Gab across the Internet — to remove Gab from the web, every nameserver and hosting provider would have to agree to shut them down (and many have).
To remove Gab from the Fediverse, every host of a Mastodon server would have to agree to ban Gab — as a result, panicked left-wing Mastodon users are flagging and reporting any Mastodon-based app that doesn’t agree to ban Gab. Merely by existing on the network, Gab has triggered a civil war within it.
Thanks to Gab, the people behind the Mastodon project are now at war with their own founding principles of decentralization. In abandoning their founding principles to pursue a strategy of censorship, they follow in the footsteps of the “Good Censors” at Google.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.
Mastodon is completely opposed to Gab’s project and philosophy, which seeks to monetize and platform racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech. Mastodon remains committed to standing up against hate speech; for example, our new server covenant means we only list servers on joinmastodon.org that are committed to active moderation against racism, sexism and transphobia. The Mastodon community does not approve of their attempt to hijack our infrastructure and has already taken steps to isolate Gab and keep hate speech off the fediverse.
Mastodon champions a free API ecosystem and as such all Mastodon apps are created and maintained by independent developers. However, Tusky (Android) and Toot! (iOS) have blacklisted Gab’s domains from their login screens. Gab users will not be able to use these apps to access or post from Gab. We do not currently know if any other apps are doing the same. Mastodon itself allows instance owners to decide which domains to block. Most servers in the fediverse are already blocking the Gab domains and we have done the same at mastodon.social.
In addition to the isolation Gab can expect from the fediverse, it is clear that their design choices offer users no incentive to choose their platform. By paywalling basic features that are freely available on Mastodon, Gab puts itself at a disadvantage compared to any Mastodon instance. Mastodon remains non commercially structured and all features are available to users freely from the start.