Amid concerns about the direction Twitter appears to be heading following its takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, a number of users tributary to a platform called Mastodon, a decentralized open-source social media platform. Since October 27, when the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla formalized his takeover of Twitter, Mastodon has gained nearly 500,000 new users, doubling its user base.
Here’s an introduction to Mastodon, how it’s different from Twitter, and why users are choosing to join Mastodon after Musk’s ownership of the microblogging giant.
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon was founded in 2016 by German software developer Eugen Rochko. Contrary to FacebookTwitter, Reddit, and Instagram, it’s a decentralized, open-source, ad-free platform that’s essentially made up of thousands of different servers, or “instances,” running around the world.
All different instances of Mastodon can communicate with each other, i.e. what users of a certain instance publish is accessible to users of a different instance.
Here is an analogy to better explain the technology: when a user creates an account on Mastodon for the first time, he will have to choose a server or an instance that he wishes to join – in the same way, when he creates an email account , he chooses between Gmail, Hotmail, yahoo etc which generates their profile address.
No matter where a user initially creates their email account, they can still send emails to users on other email platforms. Now imagine this happening on a single platform, with the different mail services being different servers or instances.
What are these servers or instances?
Users or organizations can even start their own servers. Alternatively, there is a list of servers that focus on specific locations or topics of interest. So if a user chooses to join Mastodon through a Climate Justice Server, their username will be [name]@climatejustice.social.
Similarly, if someone joins Mastodon social, their username will be [name]@mastodon.social. These two users can still communicate with each other and see the posts on their servers.
Each server’s administrator can decide the content moderation guidelines for that particular server.
What does it mean that Mastodon is “open source”?
This basically means anyone can download, modify and install Mastodon on their own server. The platform developers do not own the copyrights.
However, if someone builds a platform using Mastodon’s code, they will need to acknowledge the source of the code. Former United States President Donald Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, was first launched with Mastodon code and passed it off as if it were original software , until Mastodon calls him.
How does content moderation work on Mastodon?
Since Mastodon is a collection of thousands of different servers, there is no single content moderation strategy for the entire platform. Content moderation is done by the administrators of each server who can set their own rules – this means that a type of speech allowed on one server may not be on another.
Server admins can also make their domain blocklists public, like Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko did for mastodon.social.
Users can also migrate to other instances on Mastodon. Here’s an example to illustrate this: suppose a user has joined an instance of Mastodon on, say, climate change. Now, ultimately, if a certain user or group of users starts posting hateful, illegal, or extremist content, other users in the instance can migrate to another instance and cut ties with the previous one.
Migrating users can choose to block the previous instance, in which case the new one they join will not be able to communicate with it. If this happens on a large scale, it would mean that eventually people who don’t align themselves with some of the extremist views shared by some users on an instance will leave it, leaving the accounts to speak to their own group of followers and d users. on their isolated server.
Why migrate to Mastodon?
Since Musk’s takeover, Mastodon has attracted over half a million users. The exodus is largely the result of confusion and concern stemming from the flip-flops that defined Musk’s short reign on Twitter.
Musk initially said he was a “free speech absolutist”, but after his takeover, the platform began suspending the accounts of users who changed their profile name to that of Musk with his profile picture.
He later said that users impersonating others would be immediately banned from the platform until they specified “parody” in their account – however, some users who did so were also banned. banned by Twitter.
After allowing users to essentially purchase verification marks for their profile with an $8 subscription to Twitter Blue, Musk said high-profile figures like politicians will get an additional “official” tag on their profiles.
However, hours after the “official” tag was launched, he removed it saying it was “another way to create a two-class system”. He then tweeted that in the coming months Twitter would be doing a lot of “dumb things”.