Earlier this week, a bridge developer announced a two-way Bluesky bridge and told folks it was opt-out rather than opt-in.

People predictably on the fediverse were rather upset. They were rather vocal on GitHub about it.

Then people who knew the developer felt that folk's anger about this was a bit much. They didn't like the tone. Or the dog pile.

We go through this sort of thing every once in a while.

There are two camps in the fediverse. The "small is beautiful" and the "Indy web" camp.

This may seem like a technical problem and anyway, ActivityPub is opt out. But this was a bridge. To Bluesky.

The two camps are independent small communities versus growth and reach-orientated people. It seems never the twain shall meet.

That's not true either.

It's about community, it's about moderation. It's about safety. It's also not just about the Fediverse vs Threads vs Bluesky.

It's about the sort of society we want to build. It's about how we want to collaborate. How we want to associate.

It goes beyond tech to our wider society with Public Health and Climate Change. It goes into our Democracies.

Tech is politics.

My Project Librecast is really a human rights project disguised as a FOSS Project. We know you can't divorce your code from your politics.

To the members of our project, the first place you start is to consider our Human rights. It's why we are learning more about accessibility. It's why we try to design from that point of view. It's why we consider how to build a more consensual network. It's why we're sure a network built with Human Rights as a priority needs to be on multicast.

It's also why the Team signed the Public Health Pledge. We ask conferences nicely to please create a public health policy and have a code of conduct. Otherwise, those meetups and conferences aren't safe for the vulnerable.

We're into radical survival in this very hostile world and we aren't the only ones. I see a very different bubble to you. I also look at other bubbles. My bubbles intersect. I wish more of yours did and I wish you could see us beyond your idea of hysterical troublemakers.


There are 30 Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

People in our tech communities love to quote Article 19, which covers Freedom of Speech. Very few consider Article 20, which covers Freedom of Association and the right to assemble peacefully in safety. Those two articles need to be considered together. They are complimentary.

My threat model isn't the same as your threat model. My model isn't the same as BIPOC folks. It's hard to understand what people may find a threat if your experience is different. There's also your personal networks, your personal privilege to consider.

Carelessness and Judgement.

Very often, harm is done without folks meaning to harm. Our culture in the West is colonialist. It is rape culture. Our conversations on other networks are reduced to shares, likes, and followers. We lose some of our humanity. In particular, we seem to lose our empathy for other folks. Other people do not seem to matter. If anything there's contempt for those who speak up. Who asks you to please ask first. Don't just let someone else register on another network to follow them.

There's a reason why some communities talk about enthusiastic consent (which even then isn't enough to protect some folks, but it's better than nothing.) You need informed consent to understand some of the potential consequences. If you don't think about that, you can't then abrogate the responsibility for the harm your systems do.

Many people do understand how the Fediverse and ActivityPub (the protocol) work. That isn't why folks are angry and threatened. They aren't demanding Opt in for the fun of it.

They are angry because of the predatory nature of Opt-out systems. They are angry because rather than being able to make the effort to opt in and sign up, they have to trust the developer to manually remove them, via a DM or email.

Which at a certain scale is a fucking stupid idea. No, really, it is very fucking stupid.

Now the developer is thinking about Opt-In. You don't get a prize for considering what you should have designed in the first place. But designing with Human Rights and Consent in mind isn't really the mindset of our Tech scene for anything.

Not our systems, not our communities, not our meetups.

We don't mean to cause harm and stress to others. It just happens, because it's about our success, our career, our growth, our connections to family and friends on networks built for surveillance capitalism.

Our economic and political systems are reinforced by what we build. What we build is designed by our own experiences, our beliefs, and our politics.

The issue isn't ActivityPub and Mastodon's design choices, it's about why those design choices were made. This isn't a technical issue. It's a community issue, it is a human rights issue.

It's the issue of tech, thinking it can do better, with a very limited privileged worldview.

The last time we had that kind of worldview stamping its idea on the world we had the British, French, and Belgian Empires. Where we dehumanized and murdered millions.

We need to do better. Do more thinking about human rights when we design our systems. Not just sit in our little tech bubbles and assume we know better because we can code.

No. People do not have to be grateful for your largess. Especially when it connects them to abusive networks they want no part of.

Perhaps the pushback is feeling judged. It's kinda hard to internalize why people feel the harm. Just why do they react so loudly when you come from our other social networks? When you want to bring new ideas and life? Like you aren't a rapist. You aren't a bad person. You don't abuse others. How dare folks judge you or your mates.

We aren't judging you in particular dude. Chillax. Although double down and you will show us just who you are. We will need to back away slowly and block. Possibly even at an instance level. We're judging your decisions. Your background. We're judging the series of steps in life and the people who egged you on to get to this point. It's okay, some of us were where you were. All you need to do is exercise that empathy a little more.

The vibe is different here. It's also different from instance to instance. Federation is a series of intersecting bubbles with more complex politics and negotiation than trade unions in the 1950s in the UK.

Intersectionality in politics and our systems of organising is not a new thing. We all need to learn more and do the work.

But what's wrong with Opt-out?

Anyway. If you're someone rigorously defending the opt-out and using technical arguments. I have some advice.

Stop. Back off. Consider that this isn't a technical problem. The overarching issue, that keeps repeating on and on, isn't the tech. We can't tech our way out harder. It takes community and moderation. Accepting moderation is emotional labour and you need to pay for it.

But if that's too hard for you. Consider for a moment asking nicely. Get our enthusiastic consent. It's better for your growth anyway, if you have cheerleaders for your bridges. People outside your tech bubble who like the ease of connection.

But there will be another ill-considered service. With opt-out, we will once again kick up a fuss and watch as a bunch of very privileged white folk complain about hurt feelings and just how harsh that criticism was.

I honestly have to ask. Have you never been doxxed? Has 4 Chan ever put its beady eyes on you. Or the Gamergate types? Or even has a faction on the fediverse decided to try and get you to leave the network, to harass your instance out of existence?

That criticism was mild.

But by all means, take offense when people call you out on the rapey vibes. The culture in tech is very rapey and we're kinda tired of it. Actually, scratch that, our culture in general is unsafe and rapey. Take a look at everyone's invited if you don't believe me. There are vulnerable folks on here who have been abused and harassed. They want a relatively public space where they don't have to consider an attack from larger networks.

It's a human problem. Design with Human Rights in the first place. Systems turn out very differently when you do.

Design for and ask for informed enthusiastic consent.

Then we won't have to keep having these little chats.

Published 2024-02-15