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.