Well written piece by @distel about a serious loss to the fediverse: the departure of, the most prominent black-oriented member of the fediverse:

I think there are a few things here to reflect on... critically indeed the way that the fediverse at large participates in racism systemic in our society. Much of this is social and the need for group prioritization of values. And I agree with all that analysis in the post.


I think it's clear to me that the kinds of border-oriented tooling of allow/deny lists is already struggling to keep up, especially in meeting the needs of those most vulnerable. As the fediverse grows, the problem will grow worse.

On this category is a lot of the research I'm doing... but admittedly at this time it's probably frustrating to hear me say any of that, because what is really needed is code in peoples' hands. I hope I can demonstrate something better...

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@cwebber to me the answer is simple, hierarchical block/mute lists with both whitelisting and black listing capability. Mastodon and the fediverse almost got it right by allowing users to rely on their local instance to moderate, but the lack of override ability from the users or the ability for multiple inheretence is the killer.

@freemo @cwebber
"white...", "black..."; interesting choice of language per se.

As a novice user of primarily diaspora and hubzilla, these protocols have been observed (personal observation, not definitive data) signficantly less abusive in content encountered, compared to mastodon and pleroma.


Interesting how? They are standard terms that have been in use a long time. White is a color that includes all other colors, therefore whitelist is intended as a list that includes "all the things in the set".. black is a color that excludes all colors, therefore blacklist is a term taht means "things excluded from the set"

I suppose the terms are rather interesting and cool when you look into them, I never thought about that.

I am not sure the protocols will dictate the abusiveness of the content in the network itself.However it will, and the intended goal should be, to give you more control over the content you are exposed to.


@freemo @cwebber

You are more intelligent to _really_ believe that only, so shall say to more.

Without diversity of input, diversity in output may be more inefficient.


Huh, what does the link you shared have to do with the conversation. It doesnt talk about the history or usage of the terms whitelist at all. Just mentions some unrelated point about github not using it, which I am already aware of.


@freemo How ironically that you defend racist coded words in a thread which started with a link that criticized such behavior in the fediverse. Words can hurt. Even when you aren't meaning racist things, they will build conceptual metaphors in readers brains which leads to codings of good and evil. It doesn't matter what you intended with the words, this words will evoke and manifest pictures in readers minds. @ourdiaspora @cwebber

Except that it isnt racist coded words, never has been, not just in terms of intent but usage. There is literally nothing racist on any conceivable level about those words. Its astounding im even needing to defend literal colors of inanimate objects.
@ourdiaspora @cwebber

@freemo They lead to racist thinking because they manifest a conceptual metaphor that white equals good and black equals bad. I accept that this isn't the intention but this is basic psychology. @ourdiaspora @cwebber


how you figure, I associate white lists with bad things because they block by default, and therefore block the whole universe, those on the list would represent the privliged few, and elite... ergo i associate white lists with bad not good.

Black lists the reverse they are inviting by nate, inclusive to everyone and only exclude a few people, therefore I associate black lists with good.

Forthermore its complete nonsense to think everyone is going to associate the actual color white with race.

I guess by this logic we cant make vanilla icecream white anymore because that would associate white with good, and we can no long depict poop as brown/black because people will associate that with race too..... The level of absurdity that "we cant have bad things that are the color black or good things that are the color white" are so monumentally beyond absurd I am astonished anyone is arguing this in earnest.

@ourdiaspora @cwebber


This just in, the actual colors white and black are now racist and shall be banned from all use in society and the words considered hate speech.

Come on now, there is **real** racism out there to worry about and arguing this nonsense only allows the real racism to thrive by making those of us who are truly against racism look completely discredited by association.

You think you are helping, but you are perpetuating racism with this stuff.

@ourdiaspora @cwebber

@freemo What damage would be done if you changed this two words of your language? There where enough people that told you that these words hurt people either directly (BPoC readers) or indirectly (through establishing frames in readers). So why don't you want to change this words? What harm would be done if you would use allow list and block list? They are even more descriptive! @ourdiaspora @cwebber


I explained the damage, it would cause me, as someone against racism, to appear to be absurd, it would appear that i see racismw here none exists, and would cause my message of anti-racism to loose credibility and ultimately make people dismiss messages of legitimate racism..

You basically just asked "what is the harm in crying wolf even if there is no wolf"... well we have a story for that.

@ourdiaspora @cwebber

@freemo Do you see it as a problem that the black community left the fediverse? @ourdiaspora @cwebber


would depend on who and why, im not familiar with any sort of a movement resulting in max exodus of blacks from mastodon. All my black friends on mastodon are still here and havent mentioned anything about this, so I dont have the information needed about that to make a judgement call.

@realcaseyrollins do you happen to know anything about what he is talking about and maybe add your perspective here, since I myself am unaware of the exodus he refers to.

@ourdiaspora @cwebber


Oh you meant a single instance choosing to shut down.. many of whose members had alts or moved to other instances. Very different than a max exodus of the black community but I see what you are refering to now.

So you are asking me if I feel it is bad that a blasck-oriented instance shut down (please be more precise with your words)... I think its ashame they felt they had to shut down due to anti-black sentiment, so yes I agree that server going down was a loss to the community.

@realcaseyrollins @ourdiaspora @cwebber


Also lets be clear here, they had about a dozen active users a week. Most of those users moved on to other servers.. so hardly the mass exodus or "loosing the black community" that you suggest. While I do agree that it is sad they felt there was anti-black sentiment, it is also the opinion of a very small number of people. That doesnt make it any less true, nor am I saying they are wrong. But it does mean you dont get to imply that there is a mass exodus of black people in order to win an argument that they themselves never voices as a concern in the first place.

Please dont use random black people who never said what you are saying to try to win an argument. That is not being helpful.

@realcaseyrollins @ourdiaspora @cwebber

@freemo Instances are synonym to communities. People on single instances are interconnected as much as people in cities. Therfore black people without their own instance arn't a community in the fediverse anymore. They are just black people here. A community/instance can give themselves rules. A couple of black people on different instances can't. And this will be my last take in this discussion with you goodby! @realcaseyrollins @ourdiaspora @cwebber

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@freemo @eest9 @ourdiaspora @cwebber

how serious discussions about how to fix problems are "derailed" by discussions about which words are evil.

i have another hot "basic psychology" take: people like to come to their own conclusions and then act accordingly. getting told which words are now evil and verboten because of dubious reasons doesn't work. that's why no sane person uses some other words anymore, insight.

@freemo @ourdiaspora @cwebber In ancient greek democracy a 'yes' vote was cast by placing a white stone in a large jar, and a 'no' vote was cast by placing a black stone instead. The idiom 'blackball' to mean to deny or negate something as a reference to greek voting was in frequent use in English going back centuries. In WWII British ports would 'blackball' (deny entry and services to) vessels believed to be carrying supplies bound for the german war effort. The list that was circulated to the portmasters of these 'blackballed' ships became knows as the 'black list'. The term 'whitelist' emerged simply as the opposite of 'blacklist'.


Correct, none of which has any racial bigotry implied by the term historically or today. The idea that blacklist and whitelist are racially insensitive is little more than rewriting history.

There is plenty of actual racism to worry about, I dont see the need to invent racism that never existed and then try to rewrite the dictionary on those fictional grounds.

@ourdiaspora @cwebber


Its usually the same people who think "whitelist" is racially insensitive that also think "white washing" is related to race. I have had so many ignorant people assume my use of the term whitewashing was based on white people removing blacks from historical significance when in reality that has nothing to do with what that term means either. Its literally a reference to a type of paint used to cover up walls.

@ourdiaspora @cwebber

@freemo @anonymoose @cwebber

> also think "white washing" is related to race

Wow, incredible.

Actually not only the literal, has a metaphorical significant in British English. Etymology always fascinating; the joy of a good dictionary! :)


I know right, can you beleive people are that absurd! Sure is used metaphorically though, just not in any way that is specific to race.

@anonymoose @cwebber

@cwebber this issue is core to the #OMN and our #5F social approach - we let normal people sought out the issues of workflow and CLEARLY take the power to decide away from the tiny number of coders who control this agender. Democratization is probably the ONLY solution that can have a good outcome in this area. Bootum up not top-down – though this is a hard to understand view on this old metaphor – who has power is THE question.

@cwebber I think the Fediverse suffers from not even fully exploring allow/block lists, because the lead dev of Mastodon won't consider implementing allowlist-based federation.
TBH this is the main thing putting me off running a server of any scale: that my server will automatically federate with anyone I haven't explicitly blocklisted. How can I ensure I'm protecting my users, and not enabling abusers, without constant labour?
Federation should be built on human relations of trust and consent.

@cathal @cwebber I've been playing with the idea of an outbound block for all other IPs. It becomes tedious when I need to patch or update but at least then I would prevent it from happening

@cathal @cwebber I guess it's wrong to judge someone *before* they've done anything wrong. Preemptively refusing to federate is "guilty until proven innocent". It also defeats the purpose of federation. Yes, being an admin is work. :p

@cathal That's the inevitable next thing to ask for when you have two assumptions:

1. communities are on the instance level
2. let's use allow/deny lists!

*But!* It's also on the path towards defederation and eventual consolidation in somewhere around 1-5 "trusted" servers, from a logical progression standpoint. I've walked through the steps in the "Anti-solutions" section of

This is why it's the wrong *paradigm*. A more robust alternative is also laid out in OcapPub.

@cathal To replay how it happens, deny-lists fail at scale. So *you*, as the administrator of your own small server, say "well *I'm* only going to federate with the small, 10 or so, set of servers I trust"...

Except, you're not "very big", and there's a lot of these small servers. It's a lot of work to sort through them.

So everyone starts converging on just a few large servers, and the overlap of accepted servers grows smaller and smaller...

@cathal Next, you find out that *you* can't seem to talk to anyone anymore, on your small server. How did it happen? Why isn't anyone listening to you? You have good policies!

Well everyone did the same thing as you, and people get sick of not being able to talk to their friends. *You're* getting sick of being read-only.

So you shut down your server and either leave the fediverse or go to one of the few large instances.

Inevitable progression of allow/deny lists + server-oriented communities.

@cathal This is all with me being *sympathetic* for the *desire* for allow-only federation.

And opt-in actually is the right idea in many ways. But instead, rewire it... reverse it with that assumption from the part.

Networks of consent.

@cathal Which, that last one we clearly agree on:

> Federation should be built on human relations of trust and consent.

The mistake is assuming that there's a border-oriented way of analyzing things. OcapPub takes a different assumption: that consent is something that is *handed out*, and can be *revoked*, with *accountability*.

@cwebber for media/news allow-only federtion is the anser for content. For individuals this is more complex as you say, intresting to look at #peertube workflow tools on how to do this (but not in the best way).

@cwebber @cathal A prime example for this is actually the current status of e-mail providers. Few providers, such as Google and Microsoft make up such a big portion of users, that you have a hard time blocking them, while they accept mails from fewer and fewer servers. (Including the need for server admins to sign up for a mail account on their service just in order to get "allowed", taking the concept of federation ad absurdum).

@snailerotica @cwebber @cathal

Admins aren't going to spend all their time adding instances to lists. They certainly aren't going to spend time doing research to figure out if a given instance goes on a list. This isn't strictly true - they may put in effort for the first few instances they see or a very large instance, but the outcome for instance #30 is going to be no admin action.

@snailerotica @cwebber @cathal

That means instance level blocklists work OK. No blocks by default, block in response to really loud complaints, no unblocks except in response to really loud complaints.

Instance-level alllowlists fail hard. In general, nobody will ever get allowed.

@nat @cwebber @cathal

i don't see any issue with that. a majority of instances will not be worth federating with.

@snailerotica @cwebber @cathal

For federation to do anything, you need to federate with at least some instances. Federating with five or six instances isn't usefully different from simply not federating at all.

The basic example for federation and what it wants to do is email. Imagine if your email provider blocked all addresses simply because they didn't bother to allowlist them. Email simply wouldn't be email - it'd be facebook messenger with extra steps.

@nat @cwebber @cathal

see, that's the thing - i don't care about sending email to i just want to talk to my friends and my friends' friends. if they're on instances we don't federate with yet, i can just ask my admins about it.

when's the last time anyone used email to talk to their friends? 1995? the only reason i have one is that everything under the sun requires one, not because i find it useful in of itself

@cwebber @cathal The concept of networks of consent sounds very much like discovery via the Web Of Trust we have in Freenet — for which I showed how to scale it to (almost) arbitrary numbers of users:

@ArneBab @cwebber Freenet though is an unfortunate prime example of how a network can inadvertently support abusers while being founded on well intentioned peer-to-peer relationships.. though I suppose at the *network* level it's working as intended.
Retroshare had similar issues: the virtual network layer was fully trust-based, but if you federated even slightly well you started seeing the public forums, where one racist asshat was spamming everything, un-blockably. Ruined.

@cathal @cwebber Freenet is an example how a network that gets attacked gets together and establishes a new form of communication where such abuse does not work.
Some of the abusers kept using the old unprotected communication channels. Serious advice: Don’t use Frost. Don’t venture near it. It is the old unprotected spamable one, and unusable. FMS and Sone fix the problem.

@cathal @cwebber If the Fediverse had learned the lesson from Freenet, it would have never had the level of problems that plagued it a while ago with racist asshats trying to take over.

But it seems learning does not carry over from one network to the next as much as I would wish. OcapPub might become a happy exception.

@cathal @cwebber For context: Freenet fixed those problems around 2007 by moving from Frost to FMS.

When last year some nazis tried to take over discussions Freenet, they quickly disappeared from most peoples view. The defense wasn’t perfect because our WoT-seeds are too inactive, but it worked well enough that the only way those people had of targeting us was to follow peoples real names onto other platforms with weaker protections — one started harassing me on youtube.

@cathal @cwebber Freenet has curated indexes and spam-protected Forums. It also has other stuff, but that’s spreading over tools the project moved away from a long time ago.

There are still users who cling to mechanisms we developers have been warning against for years because of known weaknesses.

The nature of a decentralized free software system is that we cannot prevent people from digging their own graves if they decide to just not follow advice.

@cathal @cwebber Overall Freenet is in the strange position that it established on the one hand a space that’s safe from abuse while it on the other hand is also used by abusers — its protections prevent the abusers from destroying the safe space.

Freenet has been under attack from different sides from the beginning, that’s why it championed such tools more than a decade ago — and actually showed that they work.

@cathal @cwebber fyi there's an “allow-list” operation mode for Mastodon, although Gargron has decided to tie that with a few other restrictions (pretty much all public pages get disabled) to discourage its use out of extremely specific settings

This is done by running Mastodon with the LIMITED_FEDERATION_MODE environment variable set to true

@Claire @cathal @cwebber so slowly but surely, we're inching towards a more IRC-like model, where federation is something that is earned and agreed upon between a new party and an existing network, rather than the free-for-all that we currently have. Interesting.

I'm sticking with my opinion that any form of discrimination is a social problem, not a programmatic one, and that trying to solve social problems with code isn't going to fully work.


I'll tell you this

Recently I run the Eris demo by @pukkamustard

It was enlightening more than any amount of docs

I think you can read the docs _after_ you lived some experiences, not before


I understand it's embarassing for you not being ready, knowing that vulnerable people are being pushed out

But I also know you're doing what's possible

Don't be harsh on yourself and keep going

@cwebber take a deep breath, friend, this is not your battle to face alone

@cwebber @distel this seems absolutely dumb to me. what's the difference between black, white or green users on the network? never could get the point.

@iron_bug @cwebber it’s a power difference because of the social structures we all move in. There is a lot of good reading on it available. You can google “racism 101”

@cwebber @distel man, it's 2021 AD. the social structures don't give a cake to the people's outlook. all that matters is their intellectual development and skills.
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