Decentralized Social Networks and Censorship

We’ve all heard of the big social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others. These websites dominate the social interaction online. However, it is becoming clearer every day that these are insufficient for free and uninhibited conversation over the World Wide Web.

First of all, one thing that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, MySpace, MeWe, Gab.ai, and much more share are that they are centralized. There is one authority who decides what is and is not allowable, and one power to control what happens with your data. This one power has the ability to silence certain groups and ideas, and let others flourish. It has the power to take you and your friend’s personal information and use it for personal gain. It has the power to control every single person using the service. You are no longer a user of the platform, you are used by the platform.

I am not saying all centralized websites use this power in ways that abuse those who register, but too much power breeds corruption.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely [ref]

So how do we solve this issue? How do we avoid giving one entity absolute power over our communication with one another? The answer is decentralization. Instead of having one power control the community in a centralized manner, we distribute the power to many different smaller powers. This follows the true definition of a network.

How is that done? How do we distribute the power to many different entities, while maintaining the unity of a single network where people can communicate with each other? Well, think of email. You may have an account at GMail.com, your neighbor may have an account at Yahoo.com, and I might have an account at ProtonMail.com. We are all on different websites with different servers under different powers, yet there is nothing hindering me from sending both of you and email, and both of you replying with me. They all communicate under a common protocol (think of it as a language for computers).

What we need is a social network that consists of many different websites which communicates under the same protocol. Such a network does exist. It is generally referred to as the Federation or the Fediverse.

There are two main decentralized networks speaking under two different protocols, namely ActivityPub and diaspora* (there are other smaller protocols as well). These are the languages in which the Federation/Fediverse speaks.

There are also different projects in the Fediverse. You can install a different Fediverse-enabled project onto a web-server and it can communicate with any other website running any project that can speak the same protocol.

Here is a list of some projects that use ActivityPub:

  • Mastodon (a micro-blogging site similar to Twitter that allows up to 500 characters)
  • PixelFed (an image sharing website similar to Instagram)
  • Pleroma (similar to Mastodon but lighter weight)
  • Friendica (sleek and extendable interface macro-blogging like Facebook)
  • PeerTube (a video sharing website similar to YouTube)

All of these can talk with each other

Here are some projects that use the diaspora* protocol:

  • diaspora* (a simple macro-blogging option and easy alternative to Facebook)
  • Friendica (sleek and extendable interface macro-blogging like Facebook)
  • HubZilla (a unique approach to social networking)
  • Socialhome
  • GangGo

All of these can talk with each other

As you can see, there are a plethora of options available, but sometimes they can be overwhelming. What should you join to avoid censorship? In reality, it does not really matter, as long as the person in charge of the website you join allows you to say the things you want to say (you can always change accounts later). For people looking to get away from Facebook’s censorship, I recommend Friendica or diaspora*.

Pros of diaspora*:

  • More websites running the software (likely more that allow free speech)
  • Very simple interface

Pros of Friendica:

  • Can communicate with ActivityPub and diaspora* protocols
  • Simple, sleek, yet extensible interface

I also highly recommend certain Mastodon and Pleroma instances for free speech.

Conclusion

If you are looking to avoid censorship of ideas online, there are valuable places to turn to. Turning to other centralized services does not deal with the fundamental issue of power. The power needs to be decentralized to obtain true and lasting freedom.

I have invested into this network myself by setting up my own instances of both Mastodon and diaspora*, and I believe it has amazing potential (Mastodon recently surpassed two million users). But it can only reach that potential if people join, and leave centralized powers behind.

Here is where I recommend joining the Federation/Fediverse:

Mastodon:

  • mastodon.social (an instance run by the developer of Mastodon)
  • qoto.org (“A Mastodon instance for scholars in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and all yearning to learn.” Free speech)
  • theres.life (an explicitly family-friendly instance specifically for Christians)

Find more instances at Instances.social.

Diaspora*:

  • diasp.org (a generic diaspora* pod and one of the biggest, but has received some negative feedback after deleting accounts of many Nazis)
  • kingdompod.com (an explicitly family-friendly pod specifically for Christians)

Find more pods at PodUptime.

Feel free to join any of those, and when you join please message me with the contact info below. I would love to hear from you all.

MasterOfTheTiger

You won't find me on Facebook