Visibility and privacy on the fediverse

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Here is a thread from Danny O’Brien, I wanted to read easier. Starts at:

So I’m not sure I get all of the proposed anti-Nazi features planned for Mastodon, but I want to point out some thinking that I’ve heard from a few researchers now. One of the drivers of radicalization is when certain “facts” or points of view are readily available, while more established truths and arguments are either unsaid or hidden behind paywalls or otherwise partitioned away. 1/?

So, Danah Boyd at notes that if you search for “social justice”, you’ll get hits for people who criticize social justice first, because they will be the ones specifically using that term as a title, rather than just embedded in the conversation. You hit a similar effect searching for “jew”, because just using the term “jew” is actually more prevalent among anti-semite discussions than in other contexts. 2/?

The same thing happens with anti-vax advocates. The case for vaccines is already established in scientific circles – there’s no real incentive to publish a paper saying “Vaccines work! And they’re they’re not dangerous”. But of course, public spaces are full of the opposite arguments, because those people really want to contest that established science. Which means if you go looking for the discourse on vaccine, you’re going to get more of one side than another. 3/?

As scientific, and news media paywalls up, this effect is exacerbated. You literally can’t point to the arguments that make a peer-reviewed case to people, because you can’t link to them. And I don’t mean win Internet arguments, or “fight speech with more speech”, I mean be able to wire them into your own knowledge networks, or make them clear and explicit for others to find. 4/?

A particular project that’s interesting in this area is the Internet Archive, which is working to make it possible for Wikipedia to link to live snippets in published works in their references, so you can actually check the references, rather than just assume they’re true. It’s about connecting the deeply online with the consensus and stable view of the rest of the information space. 5/?

Another part of this is the importance of visibility for targeted minorities or underprivileged groups. Before the Internet, the dominant strategy to disempower groups was to deny them media access, and to erase them from past and present media: to remove them from the narrative. 6/?

That is much harder to do now, and I would suggest, part of the reason why attempts to reverse advances in justice are much more difficult (and potentially much more vicious) than before. Ask anyone who was caught in the infinite loop of “We need more X in this industry! Hey, welcome to all the brave new X who are joining us! We need more X in this industry!” before X were able to keep logs of their own. 7/?

What does this have to do with fighting Nazis? Well, some of the suggested and understandable solutions I’ve seen, consist of sketching out ways to deny Nazi’s access to the public parts of Mastodon. I think it’s worth thinking about this, but I also want to flag the price: it’s easy to work out ways that also default to being closed to anyone in the wider public space; to accept less visibility as a compromise for protection from the Nazi gaze. 8/?

The price here, is that you own the private space, but you erase yourself from the public space, you cede that to those who have the confidence and privilege to stand out there without you. I think this can make tactical sense, but may be a bad strategy long-term. All the gains made in creating safe spaces, and most importantly letting people who need them know they exist, involve some element of being visible and public. 9/?

What Mastodon and tools like it offer is some ability to differentiate between what we keep between ourselves, and what we show to the world. That’s a power that is often removed from us in social media platforms, who need to trick us to share information with them, and need us to expose ourselves to increase “engagement” and attract new “consumers”. 10/?

They do that by manipulating the defaults. Mastodon itself has defaults (I default to talking to the world, you probably do too!). If we default to privacy or default to creating speedbumps so we can choose who sees us, we may hide ourselves from the solidarity of our fellow travellers, and also risk erasing ourselves from history. 11/11


Apologies if that thread doesn’t link to anything anyone is thinking about wrt Mastodon. I’m sort of obsessed with the difference between public and private and secret spaces right now. Trying to write a book (eek).

That’s a bummer about fascism on the rise in the fediverse. @cwebber is working on something:

Dear fediverse:

Fascism joining the fediverse is extremely bad, and we have to do something about it. But please, please, please: give me two weeks before you roll out any new solutions. Some of the solutions being proposed look like they will make the situation better but will make it much worse.

I am dropping nearly everything to write a demo and spec explaining how to do things right. Please give me two weeks. I’ve been preparing for this.

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10 posts were split to a new topic: Technology and information literacy

FYI - He does a pretty good outline of the thing he is working on in this episode of librelounge. Its pretty interesting; but I wonder how it will square with Mastodon when it comes to actual implementation.

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