Isn’t that the platform where actor Will Wheaton got labelled a fascist and was chased off? Can anybody clarify?

You’re probably referring to this:

It’s worth reading in full. Wheaton’s point is that he’s discovered social media in general is not for him. He’s not singling Mastadon out, just pointing out that it isn’t a perfect fix to the problems he’s encountered on more toxic sites like Twitter.

Mastadon is tempting to those (like me) who want Twitter’s basic functionality without its broken design, bungling developers and Nazi-enabling executives. A federated and more decentralised FOSS version of that functionality allows individuals and instance admins better control over blocking of other individuals or entire instances without losing the benefits of the network effect.

That said, as Wheaton points out it still has flaws that bad actors can exploit. I do think that he is a special case, being a celebrity who’s outspoken about politics and who’s routinely and unfairly mocked because of a character he played decades ago, but his criticisms are valid ones I hope the Mastadon dev community takes into account.


I have a real issue with Mastodon. I wish them well and I do have an account there, but I think a reckoning is coming.

For those not in the know, Mastodon is an attempt to create a “Federated” twitter - one that doesn’t have a centralized server, which means no centralized control over users.

This means different servers (the vast majority of which are free to join) can have different rules about what can and can’t be said (or who can join), and those servers can also choose what servers they pair with.

This is similar to the original setup of newsgroups (NNTP). The idea being that this way you can both prevent the sort of nazi invasion Twitter seems to be experiencing, while also allowing anyone to start a server without fear of censorship.

The network has a fair number of users, and first impressions may be that things are going well and it has some momentum.


IMO, this is in large part because the network has yet to get large enough to actually face an invasion of alt-right trolls or nazis. A point is coming where the network grows large enough that the network attracts bigotry. At first, this will likely be handled by individual servers. Following this, these users will probably migrate to the servers that have a “no censorship” policy, which will be the first large crisis for the network; either they’ll become more restrictive, or other servers may choose to delink these “free” servers to protect themselves from bigots.

At this point, several things could happen, but eventually it’s likely that these individuals will start creating their own servers (or co-opting one), and I think the likely result will be a process of centralization - folks will move to large servers with “no bigotry” rules, and the “federated” nature of Mastodon will begin to splinter as a much smaller number of large servers sharing the same rules basically only link to each other.

My concern is this will either cause Mastodon to become an echo chamber and lose credibility or that it will very quickly become essentially twitter-lite: a small number of large servers set the standards for everyone, which is essentially how Twitter works today.

I don’t have answers for these problems, but I get the impression that worse, no one is really thinking about these issues before they become problems.

Pretending this isn’t going to happen isn’t going to stop it from happening.


There’s another side to the story of Will Wheaton’s Mastodon issues.

In essence, someone pranked him with the old middle-school “bofa deez nuts” joke and he demanded they be suspended. The person in question is a trans activist who he’s had issues with before. This led to people confronting him about his problematic friendships with Chris Hardwick and other known abusers and he rage-quit social media.


Absolutely. Wheaton is a canary in the coalmine in that regard.

That’s the fediverse network working as designed, though. is part of what is in some ways a federated system: the larger Web. It doesn’t feel obliged to have a link exchange with Stormfront and vice-versa, and neither do Mastadon instances.

I think what’s more likely to happen is that we’ll see the bulk of users gravitating toward general-interest and family-friendly instances with strict rules (probably run by reputable big-name media and consumer brands that grandma trusts and that want to “disrupt” Twitter’s market position). There will also be more free-flowing and likely more politically partisan instances that are still well moderated (probably run by indie brands like BB), most of which will be able to federate with the big instances and each-other. Finally, there will be a group of “anything goes” instances devoted to free speech absolutism or racism or Nazism that will find themselves and their users banned by other instances.

From what I’ve read I get the impression that there are some in the Mastadon and fediverse dev communities who are thinking seriously about these issues from an architecture and functionality viewpoint, much as @codinghorror does with Discourse and this instance. What’s missing are voices like yours focusing on the “soft” problems of moderation and community.


Yes, I’ve read that, too. I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle, with Wheaton losing his temper with a trans person he had other issues with* and, in the process, blocking a whole bunch of trans people (unfairly, by his own admission) in the process. Unfortunately he used the anti-Gamergater block list of someone who is co-incidently a toxic transphobe (TERF variety) in the process.

Given that he was being constantly harassed on Mastadon I can understand why he lost his cool, and it also seems he didn’t quite understand how suspension and blocking works in the fediverse.

[* Wheaton is certainly not transphobic, and despite his friendships and professional relationships with dodgy people like Hardwick he’s never defended abusers]


as I’ve heard it told (from people I don’t actually know on twitter), he went a little bit off the deep end, looking for any mentions of his name on mastodon (not even his handle, just people talking about him) and reporting people as abusive if they had mentioned him unkindly.

I have no direct evidence for whether he was being constantly harassed, or if he was just being thin skinned and petty

him not being on mastodon seems like probably a good call for everyone involved, wheaton included

I can see that happening. He was being constantly harassed and was kicked off his instance because the admin was receiving 60 complaints a day about him toward the end (most of them bogus or part of a vicious cycle).

I’d hate to be any kind of established celebrity with a social media presence. The experiences they have make me think that those who actively try to become social media “stars” on YT and such are a bit deranged.


I think any system with admins is doomed to the same result as Twitter in the end. The responsibility for blocking reading or even propagating messages they disagree with should fall on the end-user or whoever they trust and delegate that chore to, rather than any system that imposes control from above.

The devil is in the details. Let me check my notes…

If you want that degree of control, you’re perfectly capable of having it. The project is open source, so you can set it up on your own server and follow/talk to/ignore/scream at/promote whoever you please, and nobody can really stop you. Even Eugen (aka Gargron, the guy who built the software), can only block you from federating with the instance.

Most of us have absolutely no desire to take on that amount of unpaid and often highly emotionally-draining labor, though, and so joining a community on an existing server with an administration we have some degree of trust in is a lot more feasible.


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