In a world were more life threatening things are happening, we find ourselves at yet another crossroads. On one side, you have a group of people who want an open community, welcoming anyone in with open arms On the other, you have a group of people who want a safe community, one without prying eyes and terrible moderation. At the center of all this is Threads, a microblogging site run by Meta to compete with Twitter.
A lot of conversation has stirred up over the past couple of days based on some moves their making. Let’s take a look at what’s going on.
Threads is officially in Europe
Now, this one isn’t that bad, except for maybe Twitter. On Thursday, Meta announced that Threads is officially open for business over in the European Union. This is after Threads was available to the US, the UK, and over 100 other countries in July 2023.
Along with the launch, Meta has also added the ability to view Threads without needing a profile. I believe this is only tied to users in the EU. And, of course, in order to interact with anything, you’ll need an account to do so.
Many people have speculated that the Digital Markets Act was keeping Threads from releasing in the EU. While that has not been confirmed by Meta, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said the delay was due to “the complexities with complying with some of the laws coming into effect next year.”
Threads is beginning to Federate
Now, this is where things get interesting.
On Wednesday, it was announced via Threads by Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, that the platform was testing its ActivityPub integration. He stated that working with ActivityPub “will give people more choice over how they interact and it will help content reach more people.”
This has sent those on the Fediverse into a tizzy. This happened once before when Threads was known as “Project 92”. A lot of people took sides as to how the Fediverse as a whole should tackle the issue.
On one side, you have those who will welcome Threads with open arms. To them, it is about the openness and being able to talk and engage with more people. And it would be a lot of people. When Threads launched, 100 million people signed up. The number of active users have fallen since then. As of this writing, there are over 14 million Mastodon users.
On the other side, you have those who want to keep the Fediverse safe from prying eyes. Meta is a multi-billion dollar company. It’s made most of that money through advertising or just plain selling data to those who want it. Another issue Meta has is its lax moderation policies. Looking at its track record, who’s to say how Threads will actually be. Facebook is where your older family members go to be racist. Instagram is always in the news for children being harrassed on the platform.
As terrible as this is going to sound, I’m going to “ten toes down” it. There are good people on both sides.
Where do you land, Major?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a neutral stand on this issue. It is literally a choice to defederate from Threads or allow Threads to federate with an instance.
While a lot of people are talking about this issue, no a lot of people can do much about it. The decision, for the most part lies at the feet of server administrators. Users can block instances at a user level, but most people calling for defederation don’t want Meta anywhere near their data.
I, as a server admin, have been in many conversations with people about the issue publicly and privately. I’m in Mastodon admin groups, Discord servers, and Mattermost servers. But even talking with people directly on Mastodon and reading their points for and against, it’s still not an easy decision.
Even after talking with folks way smarter than me about the nature of ActivityPub and what it would look like with Meta there didn’t help. From that conversation, it would be easy for Meta to go in and mess with things. Most people working with ActivityPub are volunteers. A huge company like Meta could start making changes because they’d have a dedicated team to do so. At that point, I feel like it wouldn’t matter if you defederated because Meta was just be in the code.
Now, I don’t know how easy that scenario would be. I don’t know how safe the Fediverse would be from Meta no matter what we try. Just like the Embracer Group, this could be Meta embracing, extending, and then extinguishing the Fediverse.
But, to answer the question about what’s my decision for my server, I think I’m going to allow federation. I do want to be clear, though. This isn’t apathy because Meta is inevitable like Thanos. I asked those who were using my server when this convo came up before. They were okay leaving the doors open. I’ve had issues with moderation since then, but I found the tools necessary to fix the problem. I now know what to do and where to go if things happen again.
But the main reason why is because I listened to cooler heads on the situation. For a small instance like MajorToot, I nor those on it are too concerned about Meta. We have the privilege not to be. And it’s something that I recognize.
However, at the first sign of trouble coming from Meta, those doors will close in a heartbeat without one warning.
But I also understand why people want to defederate from Threads. Meta is a terrifying company. Some good can come from their products but at a huge cost. That cost now looms at the open web’s doorstep.
Now, all we can do is wait.