I’ve been trying to think of how to talk about this topic, but I feel like it’s something that’s been on my mind enough that I want to put my thoughts down to clarify them a bit.
Today I’m going to talk about structural racism in tech, white fragility on Mastodon, and how to effectively moderate.
This is a set of topics that it’s rather hard to demonstrate good faith and nuance in, and I want to start by acknowledging my appreciation of the different viewpoints that I’ll be sharing, and that I respect our differences. I don’t believe that one of us is right and the other wrong, but that there can be nuance, and that different viewpoints can coexist.
I personally think that Mastodon is better for not having a quote-tweet feature. This was a conscious decision, and one that I had not really examined prior. I understand the power of callout culture. I’ve never been the subject of a negative quote-tweeting on Twitter, but I have participated in them to bring awareness to an issue, or to point out something that people in power want to hide.
This is one of the core features of Twitter that Dr. Jonathan Flowers points out as something lacking in Mastodon for him. Calling a feature of a social media site that has only existed in my adulthood a core part of a culture feels a bit shaky to me. Black Twitter uses the quote-tweet feature as part of existing callout culture, but I feel that it is a bridge too far to call the technical feature part of identity, let alone that the decision to exclude it from Mastodon was part of an attempt to exclude a culture and identity.
I have been the subject of quote-tweeting on Mastodon. While Mastodon itself doesn’t have that feature in core, the open source nature means that instances can create the feature themselves, as some have. One highly-blocked instance that has a long history of harassing others for anything from saying something negative about them to outright blocking them has this feature implemented. I know this because even though we have them blocked at tech.lgbt, they were able to fetch messages of myself and my community members to share with their walled-off community and bring additional harassment to us. With this view, the feature seems like a negative to me, when it can circumvent the express wishes of one server to be left alone from another.
Virality is not always good on social media. A lot of great things have come from being able to share with a large audience, but honestly I’ve seen so much more of the negative lately. Twitter has been bad-faith discourse meant to bully people into silence for a decade, and it has only ramped up lately.
Another feature that Dr. Flowers gives Twitter but not to Mastodon is the fact that it is a larger network. Which yes, this is true, but saying that one network is larger than another means that moving from the bigger one to to the smaller one makes it worse for those using it seems disingenuous.
Twitter started with 0 users, as did Mastodon. A network needs people to join it in order for it to increase in size, and that just seems like a tautology to me. I almost wrote “move networks” as opposed to join, but that’s not really fair either, since nothing stops you from having both Twitter and Mastodon accounts that are active.
Who says that Mastodon has to be Twitter? Who says that Mastodon has to be seen as one monolithic enterprise, and not a set of interconnected sites as part of the larger fediverse? A diaspora of community members with some shared ideals and different ways to bring those ideals into action.
There are absolutely terrible people on Mastodon and certainly on other platforms that exist as part of the fediverse. There are developers who have such a level of entitlement over their coding skills and the privileges that come with being able to put them into action on unpaid software that i
Ethan Zuckerman recently gave a talk entitled “Governance, Not Moderation“, which shares some thoughts of his on how to build resilient networks that are made to serve the communities that they host, not the other way around.
On tech.lgbt, we have been working slowly toward coming up with our take on community management, and looking for how we can responsibly fill such a role on a volunteer basis. This is not a simple problem, and simple solutions or binary edicts of the utility of a network and the conscious intentions of those who build the network will not get us to a solution.
If you made it this far, why not share this newsletter with a friend? Or share with me some of the things that you found that you liked this week. Either way, I’m thrilled!