Although Mastodon has no central authority, we as a project still want to provide a safer experience than found on Twitter or Reddit. One of the things that gave impetus to the creation of Mastodon was a lack of moderation on Twitter against hate groups. The “no nazis” rule of the original mastodon.social server not only continues to serve as a major attraction of the project, but has also been adopted in the majority of subsequently founded communities as well.
We thought long and hard about how to best provide people new to Mastodon a safe and friendly experience without compromising the federated and free nature of the project. Thus, we are proud to announce the creation of the Mastodon Server Covenant. By highlighting those communities that are high quality and best align with our values, we hope to foster a friendly and better moderated online space. Any server that we link to from joinmastodon.org commits to actively moderating against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Additionally, servers listed on joinmastodon.org are those that have committed to having daily backups, more than one person with emergency access (“bus factor”) and promise to give people a 3 month warning in case of potential closure.
While there have always been server listings on joinmastodon.org, this is a break from our previous practice of listing servers. Before the Server Covenant we pulled a list of servers from a 3rd party provider called instances.social. However, instances.social was a 3rd party and automated service. The one thing that it could not do was any kind of quality control as it simply listed every instance submitted–regardless of stability or their code of conduct. As Mastodon has grown it has become increasingly clear that simply listing every possible server was not in our interest as a project, nor was it in the interest in the majority of the communities running Mastodon.
We want people’s experience with the Mastodon to be safe and consistent and we believe in highlighting those communities that best embody our values. Mastodon is released as free software and that is where our obligations of neutrality end. We do not believe that moderation is a crime, and we do not have to support or promote those who would choose to use Mastodon to spread intolerance and hate.
For those interested in learning more, or learning about including their community in the Mastodon Server Covenant, can find out more here.