Mastodon: Who said running a social network was “easy”?

Here’s straight from the horse’s mouth:

We tried to run a social media site and it was awful | Financial Times

The legal side is all that again times a thousand. Take, for instance, the UK Investigatory Powers Act 2016. Diligent people have spent years figuring out how its imprecise wordings apply to media organisations. Do these same conclusions hold for a sort-of-but-not-really decentralised silo of user generated content? Dunno. The only place to find out for sure would be in court, and we’d really rather not.

Do Mastodon server owners wear any responsibility for their users’ defamations? It’s unlikely but, because libel involves judges, not impossible. Again, the value in finding out is outweighed by the cost of finding out.

Virtue signalling is fun when everyone does it before the reality bites back. The “myth” of decentralisation is all pervasive and is still favoured by Stallman’s kids. I agree that “open source” has its advantages, but try tying yourself up in the knots and finding hardware that performs exactly as advertised, without running into issues with the device’s firmware. An average human doesn’t have the attention span and focus to manually plug repositories. I play around with Linux during lean times, but that’s only for specific indulgence and scratching the curiosity itch.

Here’s a bit more and it’s scary:

  • What about GDPR? Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedownsElectronic Commerce RegulationsCAN-SPAM? FTAV treats user data with a combination of disinterest and uninterest, but that’s not enough to guarantee compliance with all relevant global laws and regulations.
  • For obvious reasons, we can’t use big-tech’s trick of concentrating lobbying efforts by putting all our servers in Luxembourg or Ireland.
  • Responsible ownership of a social media network necessitates daily backups, layer caching, downtime monitoring, load balancing, and a bunch of techy stuff that probably wouldn’t trouble a person who doesn’t own a social media network.

The “legal” hassles are overblown, but if you tip on fragile egos (and lawyers clamouring to send you legal notices), it is not fun. Opinions may come cheap, but in the era of cancel culture (and rapid screen shots), it can get ugly (and scary).

Mastodon was never a decent alternative. The idea itself is good, but you need a team to manage the complexities of running it as a business. I am not sure “tip jars” cover the costs (or are worth the hassle).

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