The Mastodon Bump Is Now a Slump
Ruud Schilders, admin of mastodon.world, had about 100 people on the server before Twitter was acquired in 2022. As for new signups, the number of active users peaked in November at around 120,000, says Schilders. But with all that new traffic came additional hate speech and obscene content. “I learned things I didn’t want to know,” says Schilders. By early February, the number of active users had dropped to around 49,000 active users – still much more than the server previously had.
Schilders has recruited content moderators and has donation funds in the bank to cover monthly server costs. But he says running the server now comes with extra pressure. “You’re kind of a public person all of a sudden,” he says. He plans to disconnect his personal account from mastodon.world so he can post more freely without being connected to his administrative work.
Part of Mastodon’s appeal is that users have more options to block content they see than traditional social networks. Server admins create rules for their own instances and can boot users who post hate speech, porn, spam, or troll other users. Humans can block entire servers. But the decentralized nature of Mastodon makes each instance its own network and places legal responsibility on the people running it.
Administrators must obey the laws of internet service providers wherever their servers are accessible. In the US, these include the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires platforms to self-register and remove copyrighted material, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, which governs how children’s information is handled. In Europe there is the Data Protection Act GDPR and the new Digital Services Act.
The legal burden on Mastodon server administrators could soon increase. The US Supreme Court will review cases relating to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The provision has allowed tech companies to thrive by freeing them from responsibility for much of what their users post on their platforms. If the court ruled in a way that altered, weakened, or eliminated the law, technology platforms and smaller entities like Mastodon admins could be hooked.
“Someone running a mastodon instance could be held dramatically more liable than they are,” said Corey Silverstein, an attorney specializing in internet law. “It’s a huge problem.”
Mastodon was just one of several platforms that garnered renewed attention as some Twitter users looked for alternatives. There’s also Post.news, Hive Social, and Spill. Casey Fiesler, associate professor of information science at the University of Colorado Boulder, says many new social platforms are experiencing fleeting popularity, spurred by a catalyst like the Twitter saga. Some are disappearing, others are gradually growing into larger networks.
“It’s very difficult to put together, because what makes social media is that your friends are there,” says Fiesler. “This is one of the reasons why platform migrations tend to be gradual. The more people you know join a platform, the more likely you are to join.”
https://www.wired.com/story/the-mastodon-bump-is-now-a-slump/ The Mastodon Bump Is Now a Slump