If you want to be a member of Mozilla.Social, Mozilla’s new Mastodon instance, you’re not allowed to harass other users. You’re also not allowed to use derogatory language about gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, age, ability, or any other “physical, social or cultural attributes or classifications.” You can’t spread misinformation and disinformation, either. Or impersonate someone. Some of these are normal policies, some are unusually heavy-handed, and they’re all hard to litigate. But Mozilla’s stance is pretty simple and extremely unusual in the social media universe: if it’s debatable, it’s gone.
“We’re not going to advertise that we’re some kind of neutral platform,” says Steve Teixeira, Mozilla’s chief product officer. He says too many platforms try to find a middle ground between, say, people who want to do others harm and people that don’t, when in reality, there is no middle ground at all. “You have to land on the side of people who don’t want to do harm to others.” By not pretending to be neutral and not claiming to be the free speech wing of anything, Mozilla hopes it can be much more active in making Mastodon a good place to be.
Mozilla’s content policies also make clear that the platform will err on the side of protecting people who need to be protected, who tend to be more vulnerable in most online spaces. Teixeira says he expects to take some heat for that stance, but he’s okay with it. That’s kind of the whole point. “This is what it means to stake out a point of view on content,” he says. Above all, he wants to make Mozilla.Social a place where people can go and have the experience they mean to have. “And I don’t mean to go on there and be harassed, or receive death threats, or whatever,” he says. “We believe that it’s really important that people can go online and, like, engage and share cat pictures or yuk it up with my friends.”
Mozilla.Social is the next step in Mozilla’s exploration of the decentralized future of social media. [Continue reading…]