Bridging from the Fediverse to Bluesky (or not)

13 February 2024 by Jennifer

Comments on Ryan Barrett’s plan to create a “bridge” between the Fediverse and Bluesky, with reference to defaults, consent & moderation.

Kind of a geeky post coming up!  I was going to put it as a comment on the article here, as it’s in response to that – but then I got an error message when I tried to post the comment, so I thought it might as well go here instead.

The concept of a “bridge” is that people on Bluesky would be able to read posts on the Fediverse, and vice-versa – a bit like if you could go on your Facebook account and read other people’s Twitter posts.

There are data/consent implications.  Not everyone would want the stuff they post on Fedi to be ported over to Bluesky, which is why I’m on the side of making any such bridge be an opt-in system, not opt-out.

And to be fair, it looks as though things have been moving in that direction over the last 24 hours, after a lot of other people said that too!  But I thought it was still worth documenting these points – especially as some of them are quite likely to come up again in relation to some other future idea.

(For a bit more context, here’s my previous thing about moderation at scale, and here’s the post from when I first got a Fediverse account.)

Okay so here are the comments I was gonna make to Ryan’s article:

1.  In the line “opt-out seems like the only way to be broadly useful“, a lot hinges on the definition of “useful”.

With opt-out, it may well (at least initially) get more “use” in the sense of traffic, but setting that aside, what do you mean by “useful“?

Useful to whom?  According to whom?

2.  You’ve argued, and I agree, that some people will never get around to looking into these kinds of things and actively choosing.

So if you do make it opt-out, then in a bit, there’ll be some stats on who opted out, and we can write a flip side of your description:  “Certainly, of the remaining X%, some knew about the option, carefully evaluated it, and deliberately decided to stay opted in. But realistically, most of them probably hadn’t heard about it, or didn’t know how to opt out, or forgot”.

In arguing for opt-out as default, you’re arguing for the power to opt in all the “didn’t see it” people – while clearly realising that some might not want it if they did look into it.

3.  With regard to Bluesky moderation, you say “These services might specialize in different areas, eg detecting CSAM or fighting antisemitism. Jewish Bluesky users could subscribe to an antisemitism mod service to proactively filter out abuse so they never have to see and block it at all.

The problem with this method is that not having to see things is only a subset of what’s at issue in moderation.  There is also stuff that’s still harmful even if most people don’t see it.

The “you can subscribe to not seeing certain things” method leaves all the latter stuff floating around.  Bluesky still needs to do actual moderation.

4.  “Make those judgments for your communities, instance by instance, not by network or software.

In this context, I would argue that Bluesky functions as an instance, with about 3 million users and growing.  And I’d be amazed if it’s as well moderated as the classic mid-sized original-Fedi ones.

5.  “Opt-in is the conservative answer, and what some vocal parts of the fediverse seem to expect

With the word “vocal”, are you hinting that there’s a silent majority on Fedi who think opt-out is better?  If so, what are you seeing or hearing which leads you to that conclusion?

It might not just be a phenomenon of who speaks up.  There might actually be a higher percentage of people on Fedi who dislike nonconsensual use of our data than there are on, say, FB or Twitter.

6.  Most people on the Fediverse know Bluesky exists.  We could make an account on Bluesky if we wanted to. In fact, some people already do have accounts on both.

7.  If you make it opt-out, whole Fediverse instances will undoubtedly opt out – so you might consider whether that’s actually the best service to the people who’d like to opt in.

My thoughts for today :-)