A Minute from the Moderators

Moderator volunteers, Reddit alternatives, and Meta

Hello and welcome to this month’s Moderator Minutes. Apologies for missing June, we have a blog post that we’ll post later this month as a belated post for June. The short version is we were completing that one while compiling for this one, and a lot is going on for the summer. So let’s get started!

This month we will cover: welcoming new users to Mastodon, volunteering with Hachyderm, decisions around Lemmy/kbin, and what’s going on with the Meta instance.

New to Hachyderm and Mastodon? Welcome!

We’re seeing an increase in Fediverse usage of users arriving from other platforms. Welcome new users! We have an explainer for How to Hachyderm in our documentation, which includes both Hachyderm specific information as well as links to common sources you’ll want to keep handy for general Mastodon or Fediverse information. Some things you’ll want to make sure to explore:

  • Understanding home, local, and federated timelines
  • Understanding how DMs work and their visibility (importantly: if you add someone to a DM thread they see the history, Mastodon doesn’t create a new thread).
  • There’s a strong culture of content warning and alt-text (in our Accessible Posting doc) usage in the Fediverse. We do not expect anyone to be experts on these, only to iterate and improve over time.

As always, we encourage everyone to be welcoming to new transfers from other platforms. Everyone is encouraged to help new users learn the new tools and features available to them. Please keep in mind that shaming people for not knowing something goes against the ethos of the Hachyderm server, so please only enter conversations you can participate in that will foster the growth of others.

Interested in volunteering? We’re growing our moderation team!

Also, as a response to the growth we’re seeing, we’re scaling the Moderation team! If you’re interested in volunteering on the moderation team, please read on.

Hachyderm is operated by two teams: moderation and infrastructure. In an effort to protect the instance, we have implemented a SOD (separation of duties) policy, where team members can only operate in one team at a time. For those that know that they will be interested in volunteering with different teams over time, we ask that you commit to a given team for a minimum of three months (within reason). At this point in time, we are calling for volunteers to support the moderation team.

Hachyderm Moderators are expected to be able to create and maintain safe spaces. The easiest moderation decisions we make are around “banning the Nazis”. This can include literal Nazis, of course, but also extends to all forms of extremism and their “friendly federators”. It is more difficult and nuanced to handle genuine interpersonal conflict than to simply remove harmful content and sources, local or remote. In order to handle interpersonal conflict on the instance, understanding if there’s a path back into the community or not is important. In order to handle interpersonal conflict where there are one or more remote users, who have agreed to different instance rules, involves understanding which of Hachyderm’s rules are local and which are global.

As part of our current call for moderators, we included some Q&A that showcases this in the application form. It’s important to know that there are no right or wrong answers on the volunteer form and that everything we do here on the instance is covered in moderation training. What we’re looking for from you is just for you to explain to us how you’d interpret and handle the concepts and two examples we’ve provided. If you are interested in applying, please respond to our call for moderators here:

If you have any questions about volunteering in general, the application form, and so on please email us at admin@hachyderm.io.

What did we decide about Lemmy and kbin?

Many of you have been waiting for the results about whether or not Hachyderm will be running a Lemmy or kbin instance. The short, at the top, answer is:

We’ve decided that a Lemmy / kbin instance will actually need to be a Nivenly project, rather than be a sub-project of Hachyderm. There will be an upcoming announcement from Nivenly about this.

In addition to information about how to apply to Nivenly as a Lemmy or kbin instance, their post will include other project announcements and exciting status updates that they know everyone has been waiting for. While the Nivenly post will have more details about what they’re looking for specifically, we can share a bit of our experience to help as well.

As one of the first two (the other being Aurae) Nivenly Projects, we can share that two things to be aware of if you’re interested in scoping out the project: Nivenly will want to ensure that any projects brought on can commit to safe spaces and there will be expectations for what that means as well as projects that are interested in improving the community space overall. This can mean that an infra team will need to have one or more members (but not all) that are interested in contributing to the project’s software where / as applicable.

For anyone with preemptive questions about this, please reach out to Nivenly using their email: info@nivenly.org.

Let’s talk about Meta.

Lastly, let’s talk about Meta and Threads. We’ve received a lot of questions and discourse about this in general over a few different comms channels, including Hachyderm itself, email, and Nivenly’s Community Discord. By the nature of these different communication pathways, this means that essentially small bubbles of conversation have appeared that don’t have a lot of visibility. We’re consolidating some of the outcomes of those discussions here, for reference. And of course, since information is ongoing that means we’ve had to make a few revisions to this blog post while we were writing it to account for newly released information.

For this section, the first thing that we’ll be covering is how we’ll come to consensus about Meta’s instance, Threads. Then we’ll go into a bit about how Hachydermians can communicate their wants and needs to us, as well as a refresher on how we send out communications.

How the Hachyderm instance will reach consensus about Meta and communicate about it

How Hachyderm handles federating with other instances

Due to the size of our instance, we openly federate by default. This is not unchanging: as we research and become aware of instances that have a negative impact on the Hachyderm community or otherwise pose a risk, we can limit or fully defederate from other instances. The most common situation for this is when we research DarkFedi instances, though this is not exclusive.

In general, there are two sets of criteria that determine whether we federate with an instance. One set for moderation, the other for infrastructure. In both cases, the instance must be federating in order to prompt defederation research.

For moderation:

  • The instance must not be a source of extremist content of any format
  • The instance must not be a source of illegal content of any format
  • The instance must not engage in trolling or brigading of other instances or users
  • The instance must not stalk or otherwise harass other instances or users
  • The instance must not monetize their users’ data without their informed consent or monetize the data of other users on the Fediverse without their informed consent
  • The instance must not be a “friendly federator” with an instance engaging with one or more of the above

Note: in the above criteria, we specifically do not allow instances to stalk, target, and otherwise harass either instances or individuals. Users that target other users will be defederated from, and instances that target individuals will also be defederated from. We also evaluate “friendly federation”, which analyzes the federation impact of instances actively federating with instances who are engaging in these behaviors or who are joining in outright. We take steps, which can include defederation, to protect our space from “friendly federators” just as we do the source instances.

For infrastructure:

  • The instance must not be a source of spam
  • The instance must not be a source of excessive traffic, such as a denial of service (DDoS)
  • The instance must not be a source of any other malicious traffic or activity, including but not limited to attempts to compromise the security of the servers or the data they store.

Hachyderm teams also differentiate if an activity is limited to a specific account or accounts, rather than instance-wide. To put it another way, “is there a spam account on the instance or is the instance being overrun by spam”. In order for action to be taken against an instance in its entirety, what we surface in our research must be consistent on the instance as a whole.

As a point of clarification: although an instance must be federating for us to evaluate if we should be federating with them or not, that instance does not need to be directly engaging with Hachyderm in any way to prompt our research. The vast majority of instances that we end up researching are found proactively.

The current status of Meta / Threads

Meta formally released their Threads product this week. Currently, Threads is not federating, and cannot be defederated from until it does. Current news sources (e.g. this TechCrunch article) indicate that Meta does plan to federate with Threads and support the ActivityPub protocol, which is in use on the Fediverse, but is not doing so at this time. Less than a day into launch, and there are already reports that Twitter is threatening to sue Meta over intellectual property. (Ars Technica article here.) Basically: it launched, and there is uncertainty to the product’s future.

If and when Threads starts federating, similar to other instances on the Fediverse, Hachyderm will evaluate our federation status using the above criteria. If Threads is found to be a source of harm or risk to the Hachyderm community or Hachyderm itself, then we would defederate from them.

Several Hachydermians have indicated an interest in the above analysis and how they will know what our stance is. As a reminder, we send out announcements using one or more of the following:

  • Site wide announcements
  • Posts on the Hachyderm account, which are cross posted to the Nivenly Community Discord
  • Blog posts

Due to high user impact of any decisions on Meta / Threads, Hachydermians should expect:

  • A post from our Hachyderm account when research has begun.
  • A blog post with the results of our research once it’s concluded. We will announce the blog post via a site-wide announcement and a post on the Hachyderm Hachyderm account.

Once Threads starts federating, we will do research and commit to take action, with initial announcement, within two weeks. We will follow up with a more detailed blog post within 30 days of the decision.

As a reminder, any Hachydermian can bring up questions, concerns, and requests for changes at any time. This means that regardless of the decision that is ultimately made regarding Threads, users can voice their concerns and request that decision be reversed.

Resources for finding out more about the implications of Meta / Threads

We’ve received some Q&A over a few different channels as more information started coming out over the course of June. Some of the questions asked around what would happen if the Meta instance / Threads was a source of extremism, illegal content, and so forth. The answer to all of these is the same as the above: we block and ban users and instances that engage in those activities.

There are also lots of questions about “what would happen if”. For example, what would happen if the Meta instance becomes large or starts federating? There is also a lot of speculation around concern that Meta could deploy what’s called the “embrace, extend, extinguish” strategy against ActivityPub. This basically means that Meta would adopt it, start to build it out, and then (try to) eliminate its use.

Another concern in this area is what would happen with user data. To state it clearly: Hachyderm does not and will not ever sell user data. Due to the consequences of federation, we also cannot federate with instances that sell user data.

This means that if Hachyderm does ultimately federate with Threads, if and when they start federating, it will be because they pass all the above tests and, importantly, doing so does not result in Hachydermians data being used or sold without their consent. If Hachyderm does not ultimately federate with Threads, then it will be because the instance violated one or more of our policies for federation.

As the situation is still evolving, there is a lot of speculation to be answered. The Mastodon project has a blog post that answers some of these, including what can (and cannot) be done with ActivityPub or the Mastodon software. Similarly, Nexus of Privacy is writing a deep dive into issues and concerns with Fediverse Privacy and Threat Modeling. The article is still a draft, but already contains great points to consider if you or your instance are not doing so already.

Hachyderm inbound and outbound communications

A few quick reminders for how to communicate with the Hachyderm maintainers, if you have questions or concerns or need to request changes.

Reminder that we use Github Issues for consolidated, searchable, discussion threads

We use Github Issues as a means of communication - including intentionally leaving some threads open as Community Discussions. For 1:1 conversations, please feel free to continue to use email and Hachyderm’s Hachyderm account. We’ve also created a Hachyderm Maintainers Discord user that we use for Q&A in Nivenly’s Community Discord. That said, for wider conversations please consider using the Github Issues, as other users can search for and join in on the conversation! We mention this here mostly because Github Issues is the only place we haven’t received Q&A about Meta yet.

How we communicate site-wide

We also wanted to provide a refresher for how we communicate anything that is user impacting, including decisions, outages, and so forth, as it’s relevant to both the Meta Q&A and our communications in general. The tools we use to send announcements are one or more of the following:

All site announcements are also cross posted as a post on Hachyderm’s Hachyderm account. We include blog posts when there is additional detail that needs to be included, for example the Crypto Spam incident from May 2023.

We take into account how high the user impact of a decision is before choosing which, or all, of the communication paths to use. So in a case where the user impact is high you can expect to see site announcements and Hachyderm posts, as well as a blog post if additional detail is needed; whereas in situations where there is low to no user impact we’d only make a Hachyderm post if one is needed.

For 1:1 communications, like Q&A and other discussions that are not announcements, we use:

  • The Hachyderm Hachyderm account
  • The Hachyderm Maintainers Github account
  • The Hachyderm Maintainers Discord account
  • Our email, which is admin@hachyderm.io

We have communications documented on our Reporting and Communications documentation page for reference.

Last modified July 7, 2024: Fixed URL typo, part 2 (28cd382)