Project Mushroom is a safe space on the Internet that centres joy and action. That means we need to enforce community standards in our Mastodon communities, projectmushroom.social and spore.social. This moderation policy is a living document, and it guides our team's decisions. If you have ideas about how to improve this policy, we'd love to hear from you — send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our approach to Threads and other large, poorly-moderated communities in the fediverse
Threads, Instagram's Twitter clone, has begun integrating with the fediverse, including the potential for Threads users to interact with those on spore.social and vice versa. Like with most large corporate social media platforms, Threads is unable to adequately control hate speech along with racist, misogynist, transphobic, and violent content. It has blocked search terms related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There are good reasons to be suspicious of Threads becoming a part of the Mastodon/Fediverse ecosystem.
We've seen the #FediPact movement gain steam across Mastodon, with many admins pre-emptively blocking access to Threads for their communities. Reasons for blocking Threads range from moderation concerns, to Meta's long history of illegal behaviour, to fears that Threads is pursuing a strategy of "embrace, extend, extinguish" that will let them influence how the fediverse develops and leave us worse off.
On the other hand, Threads represents a large group of people that might not otherwise get connected to the fediverse. It's likely you know friends and family from real life that use Threads but not Mastodon. It would be great to be able to communicate with them from your spore.social account.
The moderators of datasci.social have taken a wait-and-see approach, while emphasizing that people are still free to block Threads (or any other instance) in their own user settings. Social.coop landed on a "limiting" policy, which means those users will only see content from Threads accounts they specifically choose to follow. This article from The Nexus of Privacy has a great roundup of the different approaches that various communities are taking.
This isn't just a Threads problem
One of the main rebuttals to blocking Threads is that there are also large Mastodon instances which host garbage content, spam accounts and hate speech. From a moderation perspective, most of the bad actors we see come from instances like mastodon.social, mastodon.online, or mastodon.world — these are large, general-purpose instances with poor moderation practices. If we block Threads, shouldn't we block them too?
Blocking an entire instance is a big deal. It forces people to unfollow those who they were connected to, without warning. A softer approach is silencing (or limiting, depending which documentation you read) a problematic server. With silencing, bad actors from that server won't be able to harrass our users, and if there is someone you really want to follow, you still can opt-in to do that.
Our approach: silence bad servers & prioritize good ones
At Project Mushroom, we have two Mastodon instances:
- projectmushroom.social has always been a limited-federation server, where users can only interact with other projectmushroom.social and spore.social users. That won't change.
- spore.social is open to the wider fediverse but we enforce strict moderation based on the values of social justice and climate justice.
This whole discussion about Threads actually opens up a bigger topic to consider: how can we be more intentional with the communities we're connected to? We don't really want to prioritize just the most popular content on Threads, mastodon.social, or mastodon.online, right? Instead, what if we prioritized posts from the multitude of smaller instances that are more aligned with our values?
According to FediDB, there are 1.3 million monthly active users across more than 25,000 servers in the fediverse. What if we could build better connections with some of those communities instead of accepting the firehose of noise that's about to come from Threads?
On Spore, we've already begun using relays to prioritize topics like climate change, mutual aid, and sustainability. People who post about these topics will find their way to the Explore tab, even if nobody is currently following them. We can use this same approach to prioritize entire servers.
So, this is the plan:
- We will silence (not block) large, poorly-moderated servers including Threads, mastodon.social, mastodon.online, and mastodon.world. If you're a spore.social user, you have to intentionally follow accounts from those sites to see any of their content.
- We will prioritize dozens of smaller instances that better align with our values and moderation practices. This will involve an ongoing process of reviewing each server's rules and moderation practices, and asking for suggestions from the Project Mushroom community.