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What is ActivityPub, and how will it change the internet? (jeremydormitzer.com)
222 points by jaywink 88 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments



It can maybe change the Web, but not the Internet, and only a portion of it :)

ActivityPub is based on HTTP/JSON standards, for real-time solutions in other "out of Web" environments I'd prefer to use something like XMPP-Pubsub (that is built on top of TCP) directly.

XMPP can pretty much covers what ActivityPub offers (feeds, comments, articles publication) with a lot more related features (presences, contact list, video-conferencing, chatrooms…). Also, social features on XMPP are basically Atom 1.0 on top of Pubsub, so no need to convert Atom to some new JSON format, you simply embed it! (ArsTechnica on XMPP Pubsub https://nl.movim.eu/?node/news.movim.eu/ArsTechnica, or my personnal blog https://nl.movim.eu/?blog/edhelas@movim.eu).


I don’t think XMPP has a concept of standard federated authentication, let alone social media controls you might expect. It seems like a subset of the required functionality.


XMPP federation certainly is authenticated, so that your identity to other servers on the network is never in doubt.

As for social media controls, you certainly can publish items only visible to e.g. certain groups of people, unsure if that's what you meant.

XMPP is not the narrow subset of XMPP that Pidgin implements, but sadly that's how most people are familiar with it. Projects like Movim for example provide a much richer view of how XMPP can also be used for social media.

Personally I'm a fan of ActivityPub if it gets more people federating. It's not impossible to bridge the two protocols (we did that in the past with OStatus, the previous iteration of federated HTTP social networking).


You have to let it go, and accept that XMPP is dead..

And help spread technologies that have a real chance


Haha, didn't expect my blog to ever get to the front page of HN and my $5/month DO droplet couldn't keep up. I resized it and now I'm putting Cloudflare in front of it, so hopefully it will stay up now.


Seems to be doing okay now :fingerscrossed:. For those who don't want to bother with a long loading time, or if the site goes down again, here's the article as a gist: https://gist.github.com/jdormit/7df2a0518347c24d759a79d62304...


You might want to look into caching (either at the wordpress or nginx level). I have a $5 DO and it can handle a good bit of traffic before being hugged to death. Now I do use Ghost as my blogging platform but I haven't enabled anything special in ghost for caching, I did it all in nginx.


Thanks! Yeah, I haven't looked into any sort of performance optimizations. Better late than never, I suppose.


thanks for the very conving article! I've been a facebook and twitter sceptic for some time, but didn't realise it's successors are here!


They list a whole bunch of services built on top of AP, except for events. Please give me decentralized events (including the rsvp option), and I might be able to leave Facebook.


It is being worked on for Get Together: https://github.com/GetTogetherComm/GetTogether/issues/60

There is also Eventos: https://framagit.org/tcit/eventos "a decentralized and federated Meetup-like using ActivityPub"

Eventos video demo: https://videos.tcit.fr/videos/watch/6202aec4-5385-46f7-8cfd-...


Not ActivityPub, but this has been implemented in with Scuttlebutt[0] with availability polls to decide when to schedule an event, RSVP options, and it's all done completely P2P with no "instances" required to act as central servers.

[0]: http://scuttlebutt.nz/


Scuttlebutt has a lot of work to do before I'll consider it as even approaching usable, mostly to do with the protocol layer. It works great for very small (<1000 member) communities, but it scales extremely poorly, and the protocols are poorly designed and cumbersome to work with.


Could you point out why you think it scales poorly? I've never heard those complaints, and my laptop benchmarks 100,000 basic messages in only a few seconds. Even so, you only replicate friends of friends, which for me is about 2500 people.

I'd appreciate your input, thanks!


So the protocol issues are not to do with the scaling, but with the fact that the choice was made, early on, to support node.js as the primary implementation language, and little thought was put into the protocols from that point on. It's nearly impossible to implement in anything other then node.js at this point.

I suppose I am a little off in my <1000 estimate, but 2500 is still hilariously small compared to the internet as a whole. Try it with 400 thousand users and 20 million messages (which activitypub type stuff can handle)


> little thought was put into the protocols from that point on

It's currently being implemented in Rust, and I'm personally working on off-chain content that would allow data to be passed in any syntax: JSON, YAML, TOML, ProtoBuf, or your favorite binary syntax. I believe there's also a Python implementation.

> Try it with 400 thousand users and 20 million messages

Why would I want to do that? I download and replicate the feeds of the people that I follow (and the people that they follow), and that ends up being about 2500 people out of the 8000 Scuttlebutt users.

Do you also scoff at apps like Signal that only download the threads you're a part of? My friends and I aren't sending each other millions of messages, we're chatting about life and playing chess and pushing Git commits. I think we can do better than ActivityPub.


I implemented it in Go myself, so I do speak from experience..., and the issues are known by core scuttlebutt devs(Just scoffed at and ignored).

> Why would I want to do that? I download and replicate the feeds of the people that I follow (and the people that they follow), and that ends up being about 2500 people out of the 8000 Scuttlebutt users.

Scuttlebutt gets actively clumsy in conversations that involve people that aren't in your FOAF range, whereas stuff like ActivityPub (and others, like IndieWeb) don't. So yeah, scuttlebutt is worse, IMO.

Oh, and scuttlebutt is also a constantly growing append only log for each person, so no way to garbage collect really old stuff. Again, a tradeoff, but other systems let you choose to remove old stuff, scuttlebutt just breaks if you try.


Also, the name is pretty terrible. I'd never dare say to my friends "join me on scuttlebutt"


Friendica and Hubzilla have events (not sure about the rsvp feature):

https://friendi.ca/

https://project.hubzilla.org/page/hubzilla/hubzilla-project


The site is currently inaccessible, possibly due to being "hugged to death".

Would ActivityPub be able to solve this issue?


That's probably a better term, but I kinda miss when that was known as "slashdotting" or the "Slashdot Effect".


I will never call it anything else. Now will you and any Anonymous Coward reading this get off my lawn. Or maybe install NetBSD on it.


Or petrify it and cover it with hot grits.


So.. I like this direction, but haven't the "decentralized social network" been tried a few times already? What different this time?


To be honest, the main difference is that the public is getting slightly more disillusioned with centralized social media. Mastodon (an ActivityPub-compliant Twitter clone) has gotten a huge influx of new users in recent months due to a bunch of PR missteps by Twitter.

I will admit that the post was intentionally hyperbolic, though. AP doesn't have nearly the adoption threshold it would need to be a serious contender in the social media space. I'm hoping that through articles like these we can spread the word and drive adoption.

But yeah, this has been tried before and didn't really take off. I think the fundamental problem is that it's just way more lucrative to have a centralized social network than a decentralized/federated one. But as I alluded in the post, I think there is a way to build a profitable business on ActivityPub, and that's what it's going to take to make AP mainstream.


> So.. I like this direction, but haven't the "decentralized social network" been tried a few times already? What different this time?

It seems to be all an evolution. Gnu Social -> OStatus -> ActivityPub -> PeerTube.

As all things open source, every few years, a new innovation builds on top of already established communities and tries something new. True, ActivityPub / Masteodon are relatively new, but the roots of the network are well planted in the general Fediverse.


PeerTube is actually built with ActivityPub ;)


ActivityPub is a W3C recommendation[1], which is further along in maturity than previous open protocols.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web_Consortium#Spec...


If you're one of those people reading this and thinking "oh here comes another alternative social media" just stop reading and steer clear.

Mastodon is compatible with OStatus used by GNU social servers and Pleroma is basically the spiritual successor to GNU Social and is fully activitypub compliant (moreso than Mastodon is). This network has existed for a very long time and will still be there when you're ready to take alternative social media seruously. So if you're skeptical, check back when you're ready.


You might have a point, but the way you phrased it sounded arrogant. People might have various reasons to avoid social networks or consider them irrelevant and might not need to "get ready for it". While potentially useful, it's not really a must.


Just to tone down the "yet another..." aspect of the title, I might suggest, "What is ActivityPub, and how could it help change the internet?"


Yeah, it is kind of click-baity. Honestly, I wanted this to spread so I gave it a provocative name. And here it is on the front page of HN...

I won't be offended if the mods change the title of the submission though, I realize that's the sort of thing that rubs people here the wrong way.


Also take a look at DIF's Identity Hub - a large-scale initiative that goes far beyond a social server/mailbox, and incorporates solutions for the identity issues people here have flagged: https://github.com/decentralized-identity/identity-hub/blob/...


Federation doesn't actually solve the issue. What we need is everyone publishing from their own device. No need to join a federated server of any kind.


What does this solve?


Deplatforming for one... If everyone can publish right from their own device, there are no middle-men. And that would be true P2P.


> No more walled gardens

I somewhat doubt this, though. Already, Mastodon instances can block other instances from showing up on theirs. Likewise, a major instance could simply block all other instances from showing up on theirs, or the other way around. Walled gardens can arise when single players become as large as Twitter is, and that isn't prevented (though perhaps somewhat obstructed) by federation.


I always interpreted a “walled garden” as a wall you don’t want, not a carte blanche critique of walls. What’s the appeal of a single massive instance over a federated set of them for end users?


The appeal could be that everyone's on there, and you can't read their posts elsewhere. It needn't start out like that, but it could become that - much like Twitter has been limiting third-party access more and more.


Well, it could, but I see zero reason to think so. More likely is people never leave twitter or facebook in the first place.


I'm wondering how decentralized systems based around ActivityPub plan to combat problems like spam and astroturfing? These seem to be easier to address in the walled garden platforms due to the administrators having a global view of the social networks. Decentralization on the surface seems to allow bad actors to more easily mask their activities from effective moderation.


If the site is down, there's also...

Could activity pub be the future [1]? Yes, it could be [2].

[1] https://blog.digitalscofflaw.com/articles/activitypub-could-...

[2] https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2018/06/why-activitypub-is-the...


How does ActivityPub compare with RSS and Atom? Would it make sense for blogs, podcasts, and/or news readers to add support for it?


It doesn't just allow people to subscribe to your blog, but also to respond to it with their own ActivityPub account, and have those responses show up both on your blog/podcast and on their account.


I'm getting an "Error establishing a database connection" page


So like... RSS... But way less awesome?


What could help Mastodon grow significantly is if the moderation on a large number of instances was toned down a bit. What happened to Wil Wheaton was a bit nuts. And conservative opinions are often banned due to being agressively labelled as hate or racist when they are usually not technically so. Most people don't want to be part of a social justice warrior authoritarian "fall in line or we will ban you" community.

Sure, people could set up their own instance. Federation is awesome. But if almost all other instances don't talk to them, they have to build a community from scratch, and it's usually not worth it.


For those who were unaware what happened to Wil (http://wilwheaton.net/2018/08/the-world-is-a-terrible-place-...)


For those of you who believe Wil's post, what actually happened was he got bofa'd and kind of went crazy. He started harassing other users, reporting anyone who said anything remotely negative about him, and going to the point of digging through users' old posts to find anything negative they might have said in the past, and when instances started blocking him, he used alt accounts (or assistants) to continue to harass people on those instances (this happened on at least one instance I know of, and I'm assuming it happened on others). He wasn't the victim of an internet mob, the people reporting him were doing so with very good reason.

And to put the cherry on this awful sundae, a lot of the people he was harassing were trans people, the very people that he caused such terrible problems for with his Twitter blocklist.


Wil is kind of notorious for freaking out on social media - it really doesn't seem like he has the temperament required to be a celebrity online. Remember when he wrote upwards of a thousand words complaining about the time someone made a lego minifigure of his character on star trek with a crying face?


I never saw that post, but it sounds like exactly the sort of thing he'd do.


Why do people like Wil blame Twitter for Alex Jones & Donald Trump? The only people being bothered are the people that want to be bothered. You can 1. Block people you don't want to see 2. Ignore it. Twitter is not forcing you to view pages you don't like. There are entire other extremely large groups of people that enjoy this stuff and are completely harmless.


A thought exercise:

Let’s say a popular HN user with a large following (let’s call them “Dex”) starts a campaign on HN to harass you. They start posting lies all over the site, claiming you hit puppies, spit in the coffee of blond people, and talk at the theatre. Dex has rabid fans that take his word over their own research, and those users start to hate you. You start getting hate messages, and they eventually dox you.

> The only people being bothered are the people that want to be bothered.

You don’t want to be bothered by Dex’s actions. You may not even have a clue who he is. Yet you are being bothered by his actions and those of his fans.

> You can 1. Block people you don't want to see

You can’t block people in real life, when they start sending packages of excrement to your house or start swatting you.

> 2. Ignore it.

Pretty hard to ignore AFK harassment that is targeting you and your family in your own home.

> Twitter is not forcing you to view pages you don't like.

By now it should be clear it’s not about being offended by words you don’t want to see.

> Why do people like Wil blame Twitter for Alex Jones & Donald Trump?

In our parallel, let’s say you and a large portion of HN know Dex’s actions are spiteful and based on lies with the sole objective of harming you, and you can prove it. Yet HN does nothing. Instead, it keeps making excuses as to why they won’t silence Dex, thus allowing the attacks on your person to continue.

Do you see the problem?


Easy solution: don't be a celebrity.

Incredible, I know.


Well... Didn't the followers of Alex Jones harrass the parents of children that died in the Tony Hook school shooting?

Not being a celebrity didn't work for them.


For this analogy to work, doesn't Trump or Alex have to call out Wil directly?


What stops someone you blocked from asking their followers to harass you? Should it be possible to force someone to spend several hours a day blocking people?


It's honestly not surprising that someone so divisive in the start of the post (twitter being right-wing, "Shitler", etc) would attract a lot of problems. The guy is clearly a political troll so he's going to be poison to any community he joins where he posts like that.


Even though I am in favor of social justice and equal rights and opportunity for all no matter what race, sexuality, gender you are, these social justice people that take things over the top are just as toxic as the other side. They poison communities just as much.


This comment is a stunning example of Poe's law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law


Can you please keep flamewar tropes away from here? We don't want the flamewars they lead to.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Sorry, my bad. I just couldn't believe someone could be so dismissive of someone else's experience -- I wasn't sure if I was reading a genuine opinion or a parody. I guess I fell for that myself.


FWIW, it's a genuine opinion with samples right from the same blog post. Also, I recommend you read this which seems to corroborate his general disposition on social media: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18011144


Thanks -- that was a very informative link. It sounds like an awful situation for everyone.

I genuinely didn't mean to put down your original comment. I've been badly misunderstood in the past, and have reacted poorly to those reactions, so I don't easily discard others' experiences when I see similar things. What Wil did and what he wrote in his blog post aren't wholly incompatible in my mind, and it sounds like everyone came away from this hurting.

I see that my comment, too, could easily be taken hurtfully, and I'm sorry for that. I meant only what was at the surface: I couldn't tell whether it was a parody or not. Clearly, not -- and now I understand where you were coming from. So, thank you :)


I know nothing about this issue except what I've read just now. Tell me, whose is the parody you're referring to? I don't get it.


This is the best example of live by the sword die by the sword [0].

Pay for play is a huge issue in journalism, that he was mocking poor white guys with an interest in gaming is very dickish. Gaming is by far the largest cultural industry [1], more important than Hollywood.

I'm more worried about the billionaires buying failing old newspapers and using them to spout whatever ideology gives them the lowest taxes, but that doesn't mean I can't see why someone might care about their hobby being sold out.

[0] https://knowyourmeme.com/photos/842413-gamergate

[1] https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-01-31-games-indu...


I’m not sure this is really an issue when we consider that there are gobs and gobs of completely unmoderated instances.

You might be correct, but considering there are so many totally unmoderated instances and that anyone can easily attach their own instance to the network and have the exact level of moderation they deem appropriate for their community, im guessing it’s really just a matter of getting people away from Twitter, and the concern I hear about by far the most often is the fact that you can’t bring your followers with you if you choose to change instances.


Completely unmoderated is also not the right balance. I wouldn't want to be part of a completely unmoderated instance. Moderation is tricky. I am suggesting only that the most politically charged forms of moderation be toned down.

Changing usernames when you change instances is also a very significant problem. Are there proposals for addressing that?


Your username generally has to change if you don't like your email provider. Either that, or you host your own (ex: email@mydomain.blah).

That is a point though: moderators change over time and a moderation team you like one year may be grossly different 5-years from now. To "leave" to a new instance means to give up your old identity entirely.


Your username has nothing to do with your email address. Usernames take the form of @myusername@instance.domain.

You lose followers when you change instances but you can set a flag on your old account that points to the new one.


> Completely unmoderated is also not the right balance. I wouldn't want to be part of a completely unmoderated instance. Moderation is tricky.

I think you just summed up precisely what makes federated instances the best solution we currently have available. As your comment shows, there is no perfect balance for everyone--no matter what kind of moderation we put in place, there will always be that group who will be unhappy.

With federation, if you think you'll be unable or unwilling to follow an instance's code-of-conduct, you simply hop onto a different instance which better fits your personal expectations; or if you are very very particular, you just toss up your own instance et voilà, you're talking to those on the Mastodon network with your own ideal of a perfectly balanced system.


Building up federation connections isn't hard. After about 2 months or so of operating a small instance (~10 users at the time, now about 80) I was federated with most big instances and a lot of smaller ones.

The instances that don't want to talk to your instance are generally not the kind of people you'd want to talk to either, if you're conservative you can generally talk to conservative instances and if you're liberal you can talk to liberal instances and if you're centrists/dontcare like my instance you talk to both (though my instance is heavily leaning on liberal we do have a few conservative instances in the mix).


That seems divisive if you ask me. Not that it is anyone's fault.

I have just always disagreed with the statement that social media is good for democracy because of the widening effect it has in the public discussion.

In reality there seems to be no such discussion. There seems to be a lot of clumping of people that agree on most things and little to no exchange in between.


Theres a reason people complain about Mastodon's moderation policies instead of going to a platform with another approach like Gab


There might already be instances that have the policy you want. I don't know an easy way to find them, though.

As with BBS systems in the old days, there are lists, but it's a bit of a hunt.


But the beauty of mastodon is you can go find a conservative group to talk on if you don't like the one that banned you. Or even start your own.


The idea that you should be able to shield or blind yourself to content is a flat out stupid one. Not to mention that the way Mastodon works kinda lends it self to the old issue of jerk forum admins. If an instance owner doesn't like what you say for any reason they boot you off. They can also share that information with other instances to block you from going to those instances as well. Sure, you could start your own or join an instance that doesn't do that kinda stuff, but then what's the point of federation?

Those are really the only two issues I have with Mastodon.


> Sure, you could start your own or join an instance that doesn't do that kinda stuff, but then what's the point of federation?

That is exactly the point of federation.

Maybe jerk admins are a real problem, maybe they aren't - but they can't boot you off the network, and you'll always have options.


It's like being involved in a real life hobby. Sure, one club or organisation can be jerks and kick you out for minor disagreements, but nothing stops you from joining another one or setting up your own.


Well more specifically, what I was trying to say is, if you wanted to be part of, say - the cross-stitching community, and you made a post about how over-under stitching sucks, and so the owner of that server banned you, and then let every other cross-stitching based mastodon know about your terrible stitching beliefs, then while you can still "join" another mastodon instance, you are effectively removed completely from the "cross-stitching community".

From what I'm aware of, this has kinda happened with certain instances have essentially been blackballed by the groups of instances which don't like them, or whatever.


That is only if the entire cross stitching community chooses to remove you. The alternative is facebook, and if facebook decides to remove you it doesn't matter what the cross stitching community says, you are out


Well in that case couldnt said person create their own community? Assuming there are those in Mastodon that don't agree with the (possibly repeated) actions of the server admin people will start to leave.

So no matter what there is still an option. Unlike Facebook/Twitter. I mean technically even InfoWars and Alex Jones could start their own community and by the rules of Mastodon not get kicked off.

Please no one tell Alex Jones about Mastodon.


No, someone please do tell Alex Jones about Mastodon. The sooner a problem is encountered, the sooner a solution is found.

The alternative is to bump into that problem farther down the line, where solving it will be much costlier.

And if Mastodon will crumble because of Alex Jones, it would have crumbled eventually because of someone else like that.


>The idea that you should be able to shield or blind yourself to content is a flat out stupid one.

I must be stupid, because I don't understand why I shouldn't have this right.


Because it's counter-productive. I agree with it insofar as things like spam, which has nothing to do with communication, really - but when it comes to just simply, speech, it's a bad idea.

Lets take a really overly simplified example. Lets say you don't like people who like Purple. You're a Pink guy, through and through. In fact you hate people who like Purple. You think they're all jerks. So - you decide, you're going to make it so that you, and anyone else on your sever doesn't have to see Purple posters.

Half a year later, you find out that most people now believe in Purple. You don't find this out until people are telling you about how good Purple is in real life. When did all these people turn to Purple?

The problem I'm trying to illustrate here, is that as someone who is all about Pink - and opposed to Purple, you've taken yourself out of the opposing conversation. You didn't realize that Purple had the stage, and had been convincing people to go Purple. You didn't realize how much ground Purple gained, with nobody there to speak out about how bad Purple is.

While it might feel nice to not have to see things you don't like, in the broader sphere of the world and the place you live, it's damaging. You need to be aware of, and have to confront things you don't like. It's part of your civic duty.


You're talking about filtering types of speech but in reality you really want to block people. It's not that Bob is really enthusiastic about Purple; it's that he's an insufferable jerk that makes any conversation about Pink impossible.

You think you can try and compete with Bob but you can't; he's mentally ill and spends 6 hours a day posting about it. You could try to make a rational argument about the evils of Purple but it dosn't matter. You confront Bob but he's not interested in rational conversation. You just get more frustrated and eventually give up on your community. If there is still anyone still interested in Pink they've long been driven off.


There's plenty of speech which is non-political, non-substantial, has little or no intrinsic value, and I'm simply not interested in reading it. For instance if I wake up one morning and feel like telling you that you're a piece of sh*t because I'm just not a fan of fruit jams, you have no obligation at all to accept my message. This isn't really spam it's just me being a troll and a dickhead.

If you argued that certain people in 2018 are too thin-skinned and characterize everyone as attacking or oppressing them I'd agree, but we still need filters to deal with legitimate abusers.


I'm not sure you've managed to get around the problem that your argument implies you have a right to demand my attention and make a claim on my time. That's a North Korean-level intrusive idea.


I disagree. I don't like the Kardashians. I don't care if it is my civic duty to keep up with whatever the Kardashians are wearing today. Just because they are a part of the broader sphere of the world and I apparently need to be aware of and confront things I don't like, such as the Kardashian clan, I have so many better things to do with my attention, no matter how damaging and counter-productive it is for me to avoid Kardashian gossip. Of course I could replace Kardashian with a million other topics.


> You need to be aware of, and have to confront things you don't like.

I’d agree anywhere but twitter/mastadon. Terrible platform for any kind of coherent conversation. Use it for shit that DOESN’T matter, and please god get your news anywhere else.

I honestly have no clue how you would use it without filtering. Seems miserable.


>The idea that you should be able to shield or blind yourself to content is a flat out stupid one.

Honest question:

Do you feel private organisations and communities shouldn't be able to kick out people they dislike? Because that's how almost all organisations and groups work, real life, internet or otherwise. Doesn't seem very unreasonable to say someone running a hobbyist club or sports team or business should be able to kick out someone they/the people involved can't get along with.


Do you feel private organisations and communities shouldn't be able to kick out people they dislike? Because that's how almost all organisations and groups work, real life, internet or otherwise.

Do you feel like people should be excluded because of their race? Their gender? Their age? Their sexual orientation? Their religion? Isn't that last one a choice according to a lot of people?

People should be able to make intimate temporary spaces which will sometimes even be exclusionary. However, permanent places in the public sphere should not be exclusionary. When the majority of a society starts feeling free to push around a minority, this is when oppression happens. This is especially true when it comes to politics. People should have freedom of association, so long as it doesn't interfere with other's freedom to pursue happiness.

Doesn't seem very unreasonable to say someone running a hobbyist club or sports team or business should be able to kick out someone they/the people involved can't get along with.

Activists have been seen colluding online, planning to deny their political enemies their hobbies and pastimes. It's called, "No escapism," and it's just a stealth form of harassment for political purposes. In the end, progress is best served by welcoming differences, talking, and sincerely interacting. You don't fight hate by acting hatefully. If you can at all help it, you shouldn't try to reduce violence through violence. You don't increase the world's tolerance by refusing tolerance.

Here's a good litmus test: Are the tactics you're proposing to use similar to the ones people used to use against gay people, or people of the "wrong" religion, or people of the "wrong" race? If so, then you're probably the villain in the story.

Zu jeder Zeit und an jedem Ort bleiben die Taten der Menschen die gleichen.


>However, permanent places in the public sphere should not be exclusionary.

How do you define "public"?

> You don't fight hate by acting hatefully.

Is excluding someone a hateful act?


Is excluding someone a hateful act?

It depends on how you do it. If it's of the same side, flying the same colors that wants to enact violence, then the other signifiers of hate can be read pretty reliably.


> Do you feel like people should be excluded because of their race? Their gender? Their age? Their sexual orientation? Their religion? Isn't that last one a choice according to a lot of people?

For private, special interest groups... certain nly! Very little on the internet is not privately owned.


How does your argument not boil down to the claim that "blocking Neo-Nazis is as bad as being a Neo-Nazi"?


Again, that depends on how you do it. Are you going to block them through argument, or positive example? Or are you going to block them through violence and suppression?

Which side is the morally better and truly better side? I think historians will be judging us by our words and actions. My argument was never that blocking X was being X. My argument is always that acting as X is being X. If Antifa wants to argue that they can use assault (or tolerate it from those wearing their colors) because they are only X% as bad as Nazis, then I think we should take them at their word and treat them if they're as bad as X% Nazis.


Obviously I'm going to block them by filtering them mechanically, because nobody has a right to demand an argument or a "positive example" from me. With that answer in hand, can you refine your answer to my question?


Obviously I'm going to block them by filtering them mechanically, because nobody has a right to demand an argument or a "positive example" from me.

Obviously. However, historically it's a good way to go. Please demonstrate the necessity of your using "demand" in your sentence? You seem to have a pointed bias in how you read my comments.

I do demand, however, that people do not use political violence in the US. I also note who does and does not call out political violence.


You're the only person I see talking about "violence" in this thread, which is actually about mechanically filtering unwanted comments. If there's bias here, it's not coming from me. I don't support political violence either.


Intimidating, shaming, and otherwise excluding people from the public sphere is "mechanically filtering?"

I don't support political violence either.

I'm glad to hear it. I wish I'd hear a lot more of that from the US political left. Have you ever experienced negative attention "just short of violence" from people who have an axe to grind, but who don't want to get in trouble from violence? I have. I've received such attention from people who had an axe to grind against homosexuals. I've received such attention from people who didn't like immigrants. In recent years, the most negative attention "just short of violence" I've received is from people on the far left of US politics.


First, I'm not the "US political left".

Second, the thread you're commenting on is about the ability of social network operators to block people, both on Twitter and on Mastodon. You're commenting on a thread rooted in a comment suggesting that people should not, under ordinary circumstances, be allowed to block other users on a social network.

The whole thread is there for you to read, and I object to you pretending for the sake of your argument that I'm the one veering it off course. Please stop.


The underlying issue is convincing vs. exercising force.


"Conflict is Not Abuse" by Sarah Schulman is supposed to be a good book.


Morality has nothing to do with it, or at least shouldn't. It's a business with profit in mind. You think all these recent deplatforming/censoring has anything to do with freedom of speech or setting positive examples?

Nobody has time for that, especially businesses that are profit-driven and rightfully so. Everyone should have the right to speak their mind, but you don't get to violate the right of a private platform to exclude you based on rules they have set. You have a right to be heard, just build your own platform, nobody is stopping you.


Private business are not "places in the public sphere" and should be exclusionary if they want to. You think the New York Times is going to publish something just because someone sends in their thoughts? It doesn't work that way, and neither should media on the internet.


Private businesses are absolutely places in the public sphere. If you pull your pants down in the middle of a Wal-Mart, are you not exposing yourself in public?

YouTube, Twitter, etc. and similar public sites with predominantly public content are absolutely "in the public sphere", and definitely the modern analogue of the street corner you can shout your feelings in.

We really no longer have the luxury of saying the government is the only entity that needs to respect your freedom of speech, and the law desperately needs to catch up with that reality.


Don't try to approach the law axiomatically like that. You won't get anywhere. In this case, you have it backwards: the law doesn't start with a definition of "public place" and then attach conditions to it, but rather starts with conditions ("you can't lasciviously expose yourself in public") to which specific definitions of the word public space are attached.

It does not therefore make sense to reason from "indecent exposure is illegal in a grocery store" to "here is a set of claims I can make on a grocery store as a public space".


It does not therefore make sense to reason from "indecent exposure is illegal in a grocery store" to "here is a set of claims I can make on a grocery store as a public space".

Then how is it that it's illegal for a grocery store to exclude people because of their race? There is clearly some reason that people can't be excluded from a such a space, while there also exist exclusive private clubs.


I don't understand why this is hard to answer. The reason you can't do that is because the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids that explicitly, and includes its own definition of what institutions the law applies to.

I'm also a bit confused by your "then how do you..." framing, as if you might be able to find a first-principles argument to refute my argument, which is a pretty straightforward fact you can just look up in any state's indecent exposure statute.


The reason you can't do that is because the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids that explicitly, and includes its own definition of what institutions the law applies to.

And what is the basis of that definition?

as if you might be able to find a first-principles argument to refute my argument

There is something there. It does have to do with whether or not people can move and function in the public sphere.


I assume there are several hundred law review articles written by people who are quite a bit more qualified to debate this stuff than we are that can give you several answers to your first question. All I can tell you is: the Civil Rights Act explicitly defines the nature of places where protected classes can and can't be excluded. I'm not interested in trying to reconstruct it from first principles.


I'm not interested in trying to reconstruct it from first principles.

Is it because it's quite obvious from common sense, and doing so reveals the hypocrisy in politics and social media today?


What a rude way to end a discussion. I took the time to back to primary sources to inform my responses to you. You owed me better than this kind of snark.


I don't see how I'm being rude. Sources aren't a sufficient excuse to stop the conversation short of first principles.


You're comparing a grocery store in the physical realm of trading goods with social media, which makes no sense. Compare social media to traditional media if you want a fair comparison.


I would argue that I wasn't trying to "approach the law axiomatically", since I was trying to demonstrate the law does not cover something that it arguably (by a more common "human understanding") should.

The right to free speech arguably requires that we have a place to express that speech. Given that all communications are effectively corporate-owned, it's hard to argue that this isn't an important gap to discuss. Hosting providers, domain registrars, CDN services, certificate authorities, etc. are all owned by companies, and beyond platforms, infrastructure has now been increasingly used as a target to use to restrict speech.

Perhaps an example would be if you could be banned from protesting on a sidewalk by the company that poured the concrete.

Or another example, people don't often consider, is that phone communications, like Internet communications, are owned by corporations. Wouldn't people consider it crazy if I suggested that Verizon or AT&T should have a say in what you said over their networks?

I recognize that the law doesn't consider an Internet platform to be a public space where free speech is required, but my point is that this is the problem: Our laws have not kept up with the society we live in.


You can't be banned from protesting on a sidewalk by the company that poured the concrete.

Verizon is not allowed to monitor your phone calls (except as needed to maintain its network) under the ECPA.


I apologize, but that's just silly. Private businesses are NOT platforms that should guarantee everyone the right to speak. If we follow that line of reasoning, then I suppose I could walk into any restaurant and demand to eat for free since as a private entity they shouldn't have the right to refuse me, right?

If you're making the argument that the law needs to change and these platforms need to be regulated, that's another argument. Though I can foresee how that will lead to a dark path. I strongly believe in the right of a human to speak their mind without fear of persecution, but I also think a private business has the right to refuse speech they do not like.


I’m confused. Are you arguing we deserve the right to say or do whatever we want in public? Not even the first amendment protects that, let alone on private property like walmart or youtube.


> If an instance owner doesn't like what you say for any reason they boot you off.

Social media has to have some form of moderation/curation, otherwise it would just be full of spam.

> but then what's the point of federation?

Censorship is a fraught issue: Some people think lots of things should be blocked; other people think only things against the law should be; and yet others think not even that. There's no way of pleasing everyone. So having a federation of different instances allows each to have whatever moderation policies that suit them, instead of one size fits all.


Actually this serves as a pretty good pitch for mastadon. Being able to choose the flavor of admin jerk is better than having no choice at all.


> The idea that you should be able to shield or blind yourself to content is a flat out stupid one

I'm sure I must be misunderstanding this, because it sounds like you're saying "dick pics and other forms of harrassment are fine, you shouldn't even want to avoid them"? Can you explain what you actually mean, assuming that that isn't it?


Perhaps I should have been more specific, but what I mean is forms of reasonable legal content. Sexual harassment is not content. General sexual content has legitimate reasons for having, say a content warning filter (same with violent content), but I would argue against it's outright banning.


> instance owner doesn't like what you say for any reason they boot you off

That's why I think adding naked domain in ActivityPub is important. It avoids double @user@domain.tld, you can simply use your tld. It's easier to remember, also better to self-host.


How do you you propose blacklisting spammers or dealing with material that is illegal in the server's country?


I feel like one of the truly unique aspects of American millennials is the widespread abandonment of a commitment to free speech.

It is so disheartening to hear people who earnestly equate physical violence with offensive speech. Mastodon offers a forum for people who see the wisdom of a commitment to free speech.


It's not just American millennials; this is also occurring in Australia.


Every community I know that's been started for the goal of 'protecting' some group has ended up as the most toxic tarpit imaginable.

Mastodon seems to be headed in the same direction.

Tone down the rhetoric of protecting peoples feelings and have actual human conversations instead. You will only attract the worst people from both sides of that debate if you keep it up.

You just made me orders of magnitude less likely to use it because all I heard there was "prepare for lots of drama".


Agree. These isolated communities just serve to divide the world more. Mastodon is treating a symptom not a root cause. It’s one solution to the problem of humans being bad to each other: avoidance rather than fighting it head on.

Combine that with the product issues it has in regards to walling off people and ideas, the need to self host (so many wasted resources, not to mention the bar to running one is high), and the extremist admin issues.

ActivityPub is cool. Mastodon is gonna be a flash in the pan methinks. If the protocol catches on and services like Wordpress, Twitter, FB et all begin to adopt it then the individual instances are going to be less attractive.




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