Former U.S.A. President Donald Trump has raised $1.25 billion to build his own “Truth” social network to get away from the big tech social networks like Twitter and Facebook… and also because he was banned from those platforms for violating their terms of service. The “Truth” social network platform that Trump’s team is developing will be based on Mastodon which is a Fediverse social network platform that’s very similar to Twitter. The difference is Mastodon is open source, it federates with all of the other social network platforms in the Federated Universe, and anyone can stand up their own server instance for free.
Trump’s “Truth” Social developers simply installed Mastodon and made some modifications. That’s actually encouraged in the open source software community and Fediverse, but there’s one big rule that Trump’s developers ignored… the software license requires that whatever modifications you make are also open source and published. Trump didn’t do that at first, instead pretending that the Truth Social is something completely new, but they did release the source as a ZIP file when called out on violating the software license.
What is the Fediverse though?
It’s basically a network of social network servers. Instead of just one monopolistic social network like Facebook where everything that happens on Facebook is essentially owned and controlled by Facebook, the Fediverse is more collaborative and open. The thing about social network platforms in the Fediverse is that you can create an account on one server and “follow” accounts on other servers AND other platforms.
What makes that especially cool is the diversity of Fediverse platforms. For example, Mastodon is alot like Twitter, while Peertube is alot like YouTube, Pixelfed is like Instagram, and Funkwhale is like Soundcloud. You can see a whole list of different Fediverse platforms on Fediverse.Party and learn about how they differ.
Making your own.
There is plenty of documentation available for starting your own Fediverse social network instance for free. Most are going to require a Linux server, but you can build one of those at home or sign up for a cloud-based virtual machine instance. Here are a few links and videos to point you in the right direction.
Optionally, if you’ve already got a WordPress site, there’s a plug-in in development that adds Fediverse support to your existing site.
Rent your own server
If all of that sounds too complicated, there are Fediverse hosting services out there, too. You can pay someone else a monthly fee to run a Mastodon server for you and manage all the tech stuff. Masto Host is a good example. For 6 Euros/month you could get 5 users and a 2Gb database; perfect for a family… or you can make a bigger social network community with something like 2000 users for 89 Euros/month. There are plenty of other options as well, such as: MaaStodon, Spacebear Federation, and BitCap Network
Or just join someone else’s server instance
Presumably, Trump’s “Truth” social network will have all of the federation capabilities that Mastodon and other Fediverse platforms have (I didn’t look at their source code), so of course you could just join someone else’s Fediverse instance and have the same capabilities. As mentioned, a Fediverse account has full freedom to follow and interact with other accounts on completely different platforms and instances.
There’s a Fediverse Observer list of servers available where you can see which ones are accepting new users along with other info like how many users they have already and how stable they are in terms of uptime. You can choose instances that are more local to you, too. For example, if you live in Brazil, why not join a Brazillian social network?
Make sure you understand though, that joining some one else’s instance means that you’ll be governed by their policies, just like Trump was governed by Twitter’s policies. If you want to make your own policies, then make your own server.
Is Trump’s deletion from the Big Tech social networks going to help bolster the decentralized web and make more people aware of the freedom of the Fediverse? Maybe so. You should pass this article around to spread info about the Fediverse too though. I’ve been using it for some years now, so if you join, feel free to follow me here: Adam (@[email protected])
WhatsApp Group Admins Can Soon Approve or Reject New Participants on Android: Report
WhatsApp is reportedly working on a new feature that would give more control and power to group admins. The Meta-owned instant messaging app could soon add a new option called ‘Approve new participants’ that will allow group admins to determine who can join the group. It would make it easier for group admins to ensure privacy and reduce spam messages. The feature has been spotted in WhatsApp for Android beta v220.127.116.11, which is available via the Google Play Beta programme, however, it is not yet available to testers.
As per a report by WhatsApp features tracker WABetaInfo, the messaging service is said to be working on a new feature that will allow group admins to decide who can join the group. Once released, the WhatsApp group settings will have an “Approve new participants” option where group admins can approve or reject the incoming requests from people who all want to join a particular group.
The report also includes a screenshot showing the new option, giving WhatsApp users an idea of what the feature might look like when it starts rolling out. In the screenshot, the Approve new participants option is seen under the group settings menu at the bottom of edit group admins option in WhatsApp group info. WhatsApp is likely to add a new section listing all current requests of users who want to join the group.
The messaging platform is said to be rolling out the update via the Google Play Beta programme, with the v18.104.22.168 beta for Android. The feature is still in development and is not visible to beta testers.
The development comes a few days after the Meta-owned social messaging platform announced a new privacy feature that lets participants exit silently from WhatsApp groups without letting other members know about their exit. This feature will allow users to exit a group privately without having to notify everyone, except the admins. Currently, WhatsApp shows an auto-generated notification when someone exits a group. The new functionality will be available to all users this month.
Instagram Can Track User Data, Behaviour via Its In-App Browser; Meta Responds: Report
App Tracking Transparency feature in iOS 14.5 allows users to decide which apps have the permission to track their data. Meta reportedly said that this has cost the company $10 billion (roughly Rs. 80,000 crore) a year. The blog notes that in order to be safe from the tracking, users can copy and open the link in their preferred browsers. Apple’s web browser Safari blocks third-party cookies by default, Google Chrome will soon start phasing out third-party cookies, and Firefox’s recently-announced Total Cookie Protection will prevent any cross-page tracking.
Krause says he has reverted to Meta asking more details on the same. He, however, points that all of this (injecting code and respecting user’s ATT choice) “wouldn’t be necessary if Instagram were to open the phone’s default browser, instead of building & using the custom in-app browser.”
Twitter May Fail to Fight Election Misinformation, Voting Rights Experts Say
Twitter on Thursday set out a plan to combat the spread of election misinformation that revives previous strategies, but civil and voting rights experts said it would fall short of what is needed to prepare for the upcoming US midterm elections.
The social media company said it will apply its civic integrity policy, introduced in 2018, to the November 8 midterms, when numerous US Senate and House of Representatives seats will be up for election. The policy relies on labelling or removing posts with misleading content, focused on messages intended to stop voting or claims intended to undermine public confidence in an election.
In a statement, Twitter said it has taken numerous steps in recent months to “elevate reliable resources” about primaries and voting processes. Applying a label to a tweet also means the content is not recommended or distributed to more users.
The San Francisco-based company is currently in a legal battle with billionaire Elon Musk over his attempt to walk away from his $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.5 lakh crore) deal to acquire Twitter.
Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” and has said Twitter posts should only be removed if there is illegal content, a view supported by many in the tech industry.
But civil rights and online misinformation experts have long accused social media and tech platforms of not doing enough to prevent the spread of false content, including the idea that President Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election.
They warn that misinformation could be an even greater challenge this year, as candidates who question the 2020 election are running for office, and divisive rhetoric is spreading following an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home earlier this week.
“We’re seeing the same patterns playing out,” said Evan Feeney, deputy senior campaign director at Color of Change, which advocates for the rights of Black Americans.
In the blog post, Twitter said a test of redesigned labels saw a decline in users’ retweeting, liking, and replying to misleading content.
Researchers say Twitter and other platforms have a spotty record in consistently labelling such content.
In a paper published last month, Stanford University researchers examined a sample of posts on Twitter and Meta’s Facebook that altogether contained 78 misleading claims about the 2020 election. They found that Twitter and Facebook consistently applied labels to only about 70 percent of the claims.
In a statement, Twitter said it has taken numerous steps in recent months to “elevate reliable resources” about primaries and voting processes.
Twitter’s efforts to fight misinformation during the midterms will include information prompts to debunk falsehoods before they spread widely online.
More emphasis should be placed on removing false and misleading posts, said Yosef Getachew, media and democracy program director at nonpartisan group Common Cause.
“Pointing them to other sources isn’t enough,” he said.
Experts also questioned Twitter’s practice of leaving up some tweets from world leaders in the name of public interest.
“Twitter has a responsibility and ability to stop misinformation at the source,” Feeney said, saying that world leaders and politicians should face a higher standard for what they tweet.
Twitter leads the industry in releasing data on how its efforts to intervene against misinformation are working, said Evelyn Douek, an assistant professor at Stanford Law School who studies online speech regulation.
Yet more than a year after soliciting public input on what the company should do when a world leader violates its rules, Twitter has not provided an update, she said.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
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