“All the News That’s Omg Lol”

Online Edition
As if we’d actually use ink for this?

Vol. 27 of 35
June 28, 2023 3:00 AM UTC

Meta, the Fediverse, and omg.lol

There’s been a lot of discussion lately regarding Meta’s Project 92, especially around the rumors that it will be ActivityPub-compatible and will federate with other AP-compatible services (like Mastodon). As with everything else that has ever been discussed on the internet, it’s a topic that comes with multiple viewpoints and fosters strong opinions and debate.

I hadn’t been paying too close attention to it until people started asking me what my “plans” are for it. That’s when I realized that stuff is getting kinda heavy out there, with Meta pulling in Mastodon instance admins for private talks under NDA to presumably discuss their plans for federation, and some instance admins joining a Fedipact vowing to outright block anything that Meta ever does.

So far I’ve commented on this in a couple of threads (this one, and another that was started as follower-only from its author), but I wanted to take a little more time to expand on things here and address the issue thoroughly.

First, I want to make two points very clear up-front:

  1. I do not like Meta. When a company has a Wikipedia entry dedicated entirely to its criticisms, it’s pretty clear that they’re not on the right side of things.
  2. I have not been contacted by Meta to discuss Project 92 or anything else, nor would I agree to do so if contacted.

I can completely understand anyone’s desire to distance themselves from Meta, including blocking any of their future AP services from federating with their own. And that’s the beauty of the social ecosystem that has been built up over the past several years by Mastodon and related AP-compatible services that form the Fediverse: every instance is independently operated. Every instance admin is free to make their own policy. Instance admins are literally paying the bills to run their instances, and they’re managing communities with unique traits and expectations. Naturally, different instances will have different policies and take different actions best suited for those communities.

Our own Mastodon service, social.lol, exists for the benefit of omg.lol members. Like anyone else, I have plenty of strong personal opinions about all kinds of things, including Meta as a company (seriously, they are awful), but I aim to run social.lol in a way that puts the needs of our community ahead of my own opinions and preferences. And where our Mastodon instance is concerned, the community’s primary need is to simply be able to connect with their friends and families and chat about stuff online.

Whether it’s right or wrong or good or bad, billions of people use Meta’s stuff. Just like tons of people use stuff made by Twitter, Google, and all of the other evil tech giants. That’s simply where people are, for better or worse. Our members on social.lol have family and friends who they’ve probably tried (and sometimes failed) to get to join Mastodon — the process is just not as easy or straightforward as any of us would like it to be. If Meta winds up making it so that someone’s grandma can start reading and responding to posts on social.lol, that’s a net positive in my book. And it’ll be a lesson for the entire Fediverse to learn from. Will it still suck that it’s Meta? Absolutely. But I’m not going to be the guy who prevents someone from chatting with their grandma just because I don’t personally like a certain company.

I think the issue here is also more complex than just Meta and more complex than just the Fediverse. It raises a kind of “where does it end?” line of questioning that I think is also important to consider. Some people might read what I wrote above and disagree with it completely. Some might be angry enough to stop using social.lol or omg.lol if I don’t block Meta. But where does it end? Would blocking Meta from federating with social.lol be enough? Should I also block Meta from being able to access content hosted on omg.lol? Should I block the delivery of email to Meta, or block any inbound email from Meta from reaching our members? And what about every other evil tech giant out there — should I block every possible way that they could connect with omg.lol? Where does it end?

As a final point, I want to remind everyone that moderation of social.lol is based on our Code of Conduct. We’ll always address any behaviors that go against it, blocking individuals who violate the code as well as entire instances that repeatedly fail to moderate their own members. Where federation is concerned, Meta is no different than any other instance — if they can’t keep their house in order, they’ll be blocked as well. But for all of the reasons outlined above, I have no plans to block them or anyone else in advance.

— Adam