Elon Musk finally bought Twitter and as anyone with eyes has predicted, the site is going to hell in a handbasket. Despite claiming to be a “free speech absolutist”, he has blocked several journalists, people who parodied him, rival social media platforms like Mastodon, and anyone who he simply doesn’t like. Meanwhile, he’s decided to unblock and protect transphobes, white supremacists, and other such monsters. And while I don’t approve of his completely reckless and irresponsible behaviour, it is his platform.
And now, it’s our choice as to whether or not we want to be on it or not.
Not your server, not your platform
Here’s the thing people don’t get. Twitter is a privately-owned proprietary platform, so nothing that they do could be considered an infringement on free speech. Not before Elon’s takeover and certainly not afterwards. Twitter owes no obligation to you. Twitter, as a private business, can do business with anyone they wish. This is the crux of the problem with all the big social media platforms. At whim or will, they can ban a person’s account and, barring certain exceptions, you just have to deal with it.
This is why open social media networks, like Mastodon, have been gaining traction. Mastodon is different as it’s not just one network nor does it use a proprietary standard. Anyone can join a Mastodon instance and if they don’t like their instances, they can move their content from one instance to another. Or, in other words:
And even better, sites like Mastodon use a standardized framework known as ActivityPub.
What is ActivityPub?
ActivityPub is a standard. And this is what makes it freer than any network like Facebook. Whereas Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are walled gardens, ActivityPub is an open standard. Combined with federation, you can post a wide variety of content that can be viewed on a wide variety of platforms. This site is now using ActivityPub through a WordPress plugin which broadcasts an ActivityPub stream. Now, you can follow this blog on Mastodon, CalcKey, or any other ActivityPub-enabled platform. Just follow me at @firstname.lastname@example.org on your preferred instance of choice and you’ll get my blog. Just as if you follow me at @daria, you’ll get my social posts. And that’s because these sites “federate” with each other.
And it is my hope that soon-ish, I can create better federation between this site and other ActivityPub platforms like Pixelfed, Peertube, and BookWyrm and move off of (or reduce my dependency on) sites such as Instagram, YouTube, and GoodReads.
What the hell is federation?
Federation is interconnectivity between services. Just like how e-mail services “federate”, ActivityPub “federates” in a similar way. You put the user’s username first (in my case for Mastodon, it’s daria), then an “@” symbol, and then the server name (in my case, it’s “equestria.social”), so it’s @daria.
Why the hell should I care?
Put simply, you should care because this is the way you get your free speech. Private companies like Twitter and Meta have no obligation to you. And with the walls closing in, you should get out now.