The latest in tech and social media today is an app called Mastodon, a Twitter-like platform that’s designed to overcome the greatest flaws in digital socializing. Built on the pillars of privacy, bespoke community codes of conduct, and linking like-minded individuals, Mastodon is a federated platform that allows you to build your own network with your own rules that’s open to all. It has 2.2 million users currently.
But what does this all mean exactly? Here’s a breakdown
How did it gain popularity and breach the Indian digital market?
Even though Mastodon has been around since 2016, it gained popularity when Supreme Court Lawyer Sanjay Hegde’s Twitter account was reportedly suspended after his tweets were flagged off as hateful. As a major voice in the Indian law and finance community, it raised concerns against Twitter’s negligence and integrity as a platform to voice one’s opinions. After more such cases, Hedge announced his arrival onto Mastodon. It made headlines and attracted a new community that further webbed out across India. 12,900 people joined it last week, according to Eugen, the developer of mastodon.social
But how is this different from the existing social media platforms?
It’s essentially an open-source platform that offers better tools for privacy and fighting harassment than Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook. You can either join an existing network or create your own, choosing what’s allowed and what isn’t. This allows you to only interact with people with mutual likes and dislikes on a subject. On a more casual note, you can also start a mini digital cult based on pop culture, take this House Targaryen of Game Of Thrones network for instance. Every network features unique community laws and rules, while of course being in line with Mastodon’s platform rules. Being a federation, it doesn’t need to abide by domestic government laws.
What’s the issue it’s built to overcome?
We’re currently in an age of free speech and digital liberty. But while we voice our opinions on various social media platforms, we’re often squared by community guidelines and flagged either by fellow users or the platform itself. This whale-sized problem swims across the global interweb and stems back to the inflexible and generalised content policies followed by various social media platforms. Moreover, keeping these CG rules in check while monitoring user activity are AI systems. Many argue that it’s never really a good idea to leave intimate workings like this to a computer – it misses the element of human administration and contextual judgement. Mastodon, gives this power back to the people. Musician Vishal Dadlani, journalist Shivam Vij, and social activist Kavita Krishnan have moved to Mastodon.
How does one use Mastodon?
Similar to Twitter, you sign up and select a network but instead of tweeting, you toot. This could be based on your interests, location, or social stream. This is where you have to either agree or disagree with the network’s rules. Even after you choose a network, you can still spectate other networks and join those too. Just like Twitter, it’s a text-oriented platform but you can post images and videos. Upon creating your own network, you get to make your own rules for the community and moderate it.
All images: Courtesy Mastodon