ANNOUNCEMENT: defederating effective immediately from lemmy.world and sh.itjust.works

hey folks, we'll be quick and to the point with this one:

we have made the decision to defederate from lemmy.world and sh.itjust.works. we recognize this is hugely inconvenient for a wide variety of reasons, but we think this is a decision we need to take immediately. the remainder of the post details our thoughts and decision-making on why this is necessary.

we have been concerned with how sustainable the explosion of new users on Lemmy is--particularly with federation in mind--basically since it began. i have already related how difficult dealing with the explosion has been just constrained to this instance for us four Admins, and increasingly we're being confronted with external vectors we have to deal with that have further stressed our capabilities (elaborated on below).

an unfortunate reality we've also found is we just don't have the tools or the time here to parse out all the good from all the bad. all we have is a nuke and some pretty rudimentary mod powers that don't scale well. we have a list of improvements we'd like to see both on the moderation side of Lemmy and federation if at all possible--but we're unanimous in the belief that we can't wait on what we want to be developed here. separately, we want to do this now, while the band-aid can be ripped off with substantially less pain.

aside from/complementary to what's mentioned above, our reason for defederating, by and large, boils down to:

  • these two instances' open registration policy, which is extremely problematic for us given how federation works and how trivial it makes trolling, harassment, and other undesirable behavior;
  • the disproportionate number of moderator actions we take against users of these two instances, and the general amount of time we have to dedicate to bad actors on those two instances;
  • our need to preserve not only a moderated community but a vibe and general feeling this is actually a safe space for our users to participate in;
  • and the reality that fulfilling our ethos is simply not possible when we not only have to account for our own users but have to account for literally tens of thousands of new, completely unvetted users, some of whom explicitly see spaces like this as desirable to troll and disrupt and others of whom simply don't care about what our instance stands for

as Gaywallet puts it, in our discussion of whether to do this:

There's a lot of soft moderating that happens, where people step in to diffuse tense situations. But it's not just that, there's a vibe that comes along with it. Most people need a lot of trust and support to open up, and it's really hard to trust and support who's around you when there are bad actors. People shut themselves off in various ways when there's more hostility around them. They'll even shut themselves off when there's fake nice behavior around. There's a lot of nuance in modding a community like this and it's not just where we take moderator actions- sometimes people need to step in to diffuse, to negotiate, to help people grow. This only works when everyone is on the same page about our ethos and right now we can't even assess that for people who aren't from our instance, so we're walking a tightrope by trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. That isn't sustainable forever and especially not in the face of massive growth on such a short timeframe.

Explicitly safe spaces in real life typically aren't open to having strangers walk in off the street, even if they have a bouncer to throw problematic people out. A single negative interaction might require a lot of energy to undo.

and, to reiterate: we understand that a lot of people legitimately and fairly use these instances, and this is going to be painful while it's in effect. but we hope you can understand why we're doing this. our words, when we talk about building something better here, are not idle platitudes, and we are not out to build a space that grows at any cost. we want a better space, and we think this is necessary to do that right now. if you disagree we understand that, but we hope you can if nothing else come away with the understanding it was an informed decision.

this is also not a permanent judgement (or a moral one on the part of either community's owner, i should add--we just have differing interests here and that's fine). in the future as tools develop, cultures settle, attitudes and interest change, and the wave of newcomers settles down, we'll reassess whether we feel capable of refederating with these communities.

thanks for using our site folks.

anthoniix,
anthoniix avatar

Firstly, I want to say I appreciate your dedication to creating a well moderated and maintained community.

However, I feel like this is an overall bad decision.

Essentially what I'm thinking is, how is this sustainable?

The amount of control that youre trying to achieve here is going to create an increasingly small and insular community. Also, there is a serious risk of burn out on the moderation end if you're attempting to currate this much, the more this server grows the harder this is going to be to maintain.

With the type of platform that this is, we're going to have a wide variety of people. A lot of them are just going to be bad people. Simply defederating won't fix this, and it will also be a problem here even with manually approved sign ups.

If people want to, they will just lie to get in. Essentially your system right now relies on people not lying to you when they sign up. A targeted harassment campaign could easily overcome that.

What's next? Are we going to deferate kbin.social and mastodon.social? Why don't we just defederate every instance? Even the biggest social media platforms have a seriously hard time moderating content they actually don't want on their platform. You can literally find porn on Youtube.

Tipping your hand on the scales this much is really stressful for a small team, and often doesn't lead to the outcomes that you thought you wanted. I hope in the near future you refederate, but I understand if you don't.

balerion,
@balerion@beehaw.org avatar

Agreed on all counts.

DarraignTheSane,

Agreed. This won't stop any bad actors from simply creating accounts here, and will only potentially stop otherwise good people from participating.

lixus98,
lixus98 avatar

In my opinion this might have a bad effect too, trolls will see this as a reaction, a reaction that they maybe were looking for.
Beehaw is showing that trolls have a huge effect in its mods, making them go out of their way to troll more.

sarsaparilyptus,

When I was a kid, I was an internet troll. I would have been overjoyed by this, it's blood in the water.

realChem,
@realChem@beehaw.org avatar

I think you've got valid concerns here, and while it doesn't completely address them I think it's worth keeping in mind that Beehaw isn't here to be the next reddit, and growth for the sake of growth isn't the goal of this instance. Having a smaller scope and a more tightly knit community here is probably actually desirable, in the long run. Also, I don't think there's too much concern about people making fake applications to get in, as that's a much higher effort (and thus lower volume) vector of attack for bad actors.

With respect to sustainability, we'll hopefully get better moderation tools in the (near) future to solve these problems in a way besides total defederation, but at the moment lemmy doesn't support that kind of granularity. As better tools become available, refederation is not off the table.

anthoniix,
anthoniix avatar

Growth for the sake of growth isn't always bad. I think the problem with Reddit is that it's growth for the sake of profit.

When we try to grow our communities it gives us wider influence over what a space looks like. Imagine if there is a cause a lot of users here want to promote and fight for, but they're defederated from some of the biggest instances?

The ability to grow gives you a seat at the table, and also allows you to influence others. That's essentially why people often centralize in one place on social media platforms.

I do understand your point of view though, I still disagree but respect it.

Gaywallet,
@Gaywallet@beehaw.org avatar

This may be a space in which I diverge from the other admins but the only space I am concerned about here is Beehaw itself. Having a seat at the Lemmy table is not important to me. Yes, it would afford us more attention when it comes to development and direction, but I am primarily concerned with creating a different kind of culture on the internet. The platform itself and the space that occupies are not important to me except as a vector to see if we can influence human behavior and find ways to promote positivity and kindness.

sarsaparilyptus,

Having a seat at the Lemmy table is not important to me.

So you guys made this community on the Fediverse because...? It sounds like what you want is to be your own traditional phpBB forum. Of course, you'd lose out on the user base that other instances have fed to you—I've seen how dead this place was before the reddit blackout. This really smells like you guys just want to eat your cake and have it too.

HeartyBeast,
HeartyBeast avatar

As you can see, I'm not on beehaw, but I think this is a perfectly reasonable stance. Building a diverse fediverse, where there is a place for everyone seems a laudible aim. That may be possible with broad federation, or in some instances it may require narrow or no federation. It's all good.

realChem,
@realChem@beehaw.org avatar

Growth for the sake of growth isn’t always bad

I didn't say it was! It's just not the goal of beehaw in particular. Other instances have decided that they would like to be the new home for everybody who cares to apply (for example, lemmy.world). And there's nothing wrong with that at all, but ultimately it's also the reason we're not federated with them anymore.

Lionir,

Just want to point out, in early Mastodon days - People did defederate from mastodon.social because the moderation tools were not good enough.

With time and with better moderation tools, we believe we will refederate.

activepeople,

Mastodon communities currently defederate from instances of over a certain size (including .social) because of how hard it is to moderate large instances, beehaw isn't doing anything weird in this case.

Gaywallet,
@Gaywallet@beehaw.org avatar

As someone who used to moderate default communities on Reddit, I can see how you can reach this conclusion. I agree with many of your points in that it isn't possible to completely block attack vectors, but I don't agree with the idea that we need to interact with a lot of "bad" people. I think the feeling that we need to interact with a lot of "bad" people comes from so much experience with bad platforms and the cultures that originate from these places. I think it's also important to note that we are not here for growth at all costs. We do not intend to be at the scale of YouTube or anywhere close. In the end our experiment may be a failure, but I'd rather try something new than give up before I even try.

hirad,

This is why Fediverse can never compete with centralized social media. Mastodon and Lemmy to be specific are obsessed with defederation. Because users on platforms like Reddit and Twitter are used to having access to everything. Not waking up suddenly and realizing they've lost access to a large number of communities they were part of just until last night. All in the name of creating "safe space".

makingStuffForFun,
@makingStuffForFun@lemmy.ml avatar

Yup. I guess they can have their safe bubble, and the rest of the fediverse can just keep growing. Shame to see a community cut themselves off from the world, but it’s their community and if a bubble / chamber is what they want, then we have to just shrug and move on.

Shrug.

Moved on.

Skullfurious,

I’m inclined to agree. But I also don’t think anyone should be forced to deal with these shitters coming in and causing chaos due to the lack of signup oversite. For instance Reddit could IP shadow ban you but that’s not an option on Lemmy. If the federated servers could share user data it would be fine but that would cause so many issues it’s not even funny.

This will become a lot less of an issue after account migration gets some eyes looking at it. Hopefully.

bankimu,

I am not going to stand for this.

I didn't come here into the fediverse to have instances dictate on their whim that I'll not have access to something.

This goes completely against the idea of having an unified platform. You can of course do whatever you want, but I'll not be part of a closed garden.

ursakhiin,

I would like to point out to you, this decision doesn't impact you at all. Your account appears to be on lemmy.ml. the only thing this decision does is prevent users on Beehaw from interacting with content on lemmy.world and sh.itjust.works and vice-versa.

As a user of beehaw.org, I'm fine with this choice. If I discover content I want to engage with on a defederate instance I will create an account that can interact with it along with my existing account on Beehaw.

A2PKXG,
@A2PKXG@feddit.de avatar

If it's a bad decision, the fediverse will move on without fragile instances like beehaw. If it's a good decision, beehaw will be even better from now on.

Just wait and see. The invisible hand of the free market will set things right!

amju_wolf,
@amju_wolf@pawb.social avatar

I agree in theory, but if we want to attract regular people from Reddit, this is really bad - if one day they wake up and don't see half of the communities they expect they'll just be pissed and probably leave entirely.

rowdy,

“I’m not going to stand for this” Dude just move to another instance. Literally no one is stopping you. It’s the whole reason for the fediverse. They can manage their instance as they see fit. You sound like a complete keyboard warrior, get over yourself and move on.

dogmuffins,

They're on lemmy.ml, not even on any of the effected servers.

KeavesSharpi,

I think that the whole point of federation is that you, the end user, have the option of choosing where you want to go. You want to use those other instances, nobody is stopping you. You can actually use as many as you want. The instance owner gets to choose what is displayed on their instance, and that's OK as well. You even have the option of making your very own instance and displaying everything from everywhere. Nobody is dictating what you can or can't see. They're just choosing not to be the ones to show it to you.

narwhal,

I'm a bit new to this whole federation thing. As I understand it, it's supposed to be like email?

I don't think I've ever heard something similar happening in email space. For example: Hotmail can suddenly decide that Hotmail users can only email other Hotmail users going forward.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the admins' concerns. Just trying to understand about federation more.

Soki,

I think the imortant difference to email here is that communication is open to everyone, not person to person. This creates the need for moderation and selection.

Serinus,

It absolutely does happen with email, you just don't notice it. You could just start sending porn to as many emails as you can find. If you use a reputable email provider like Gmail or Yahoo, it won't take them too long to ban you. If you stand up your own email server and do the same, your whole server will be blocked.

Mostly this ends up as transparent to users, but it does happen and is actively managed.

It's a bit of a tangent, because public communities are different from private email, but the defederation concept exists in both.

SemioticStandard,
@SemioticStandard@beehaw.org avatar

I think your idea of what federation should look like is not quite right, which is okay, it’s not an insult, it’s new to many of us.

The idea isn’t that everything is open, with a unified platform that shares everything, everywhere. The Lemmy software is open source, but the way instances are moderated is highly customizable, and that is an intentional design decision.

You’re probably used to common moderation styles on Reddit, where users have more control over content via up/downvotes, and some Lemmy instances may run just like that, taking a more hands-off approach to moderation. But Beehaw is not like that. The goals and moderation style here are different. Beehaw is looking to create a different kind of space, with more control over what’s posted. There are pros and cons to this, which are beyond the scope of this comment to explore. The point is this: different Lemmy instances are run by different people, with different visions and styles. If you don’t like how Beehaw is run, it’s probably going to be a better experience for you, as well as the people here who do like how it’s run, if you find an instance that more closely aligns with what you’re looking for.

But coming onto someone else’s instance and aggressively demanding things conform to your desires or trying to inform the owners of what you will or won’t “stand for” is rude, though. There’s a better way to communicate with people, and in the future I hope you choose grace.

amju_wolf,
@amju_wolf@pawb.social avatar

The idea isn’t that everything is open, with a unified platform that shares everything, everywhere. The Lemmy software is open source, but the way instances are moderated is highly customizable, and that is an intentional design decision.

I dunno, that's like saying "various mailservers choose to have different rules for their users, and we choose to block some of those mailservers because we disagree with how they're ran".

And while that's technically in your power, and might make sense if it actually is a mailserver that's sending 100% just spam, it doesn't really make sense if you block any significant number of normal users.

I think the ideal way forward would be having individual blocklists, where each instance would have defaults for its users, but the user could choose to un-block the remote instances if they wish. Defederation should be reserved only for extremely disruptive instances, and even then there should be an appeal process or a yearly (or so) re-evaluation.

(obligatory I'm not on beehaw but still think this sets a dangerous precedent and should be discussed)

Fluffybirb,

Very well said. I wish I could write out my thoughts as eloquently as this!

cavemeat,

Very well said. Federation is supposed to be for everyone, but that doesn't mean that individual servers have to cater to everyone.

bilb,
@bilb@lem.monster avatar

This is all well and good, but in practical terms it means that if your account is not on beehaw then you should divest your involvement with beehaw communities because it is less likely to remain federated with your home instance. Which may be what the beehaw community wants, from the sound of it.

interdimensionalmeme,

You will probably end up disconnecting yourself from every growing instance until you're standalone. A standalone Lemmy instance, what even is the point ?

finickydesert,

Actually you could create your own instance of just you and just federate. That way when stuff like this happens it shouldn't effect you.

Side note: I do agree with the assessment of a temporary defederation but, a clear time table should be made with all of those who will vote on refederation with those instances.

vegafjord,
@vegafjord@fribygda.no avatar

@interdimensionalmeme It makes sense. Instances are supposed to be well moderated. If we have a mesh of well regulated instances our communities can flourish in unpresedented ways.

Five,
@Five@beehaw.org avatar

Support -- "Good online communities die primarily by refusing to defend themselves." from Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

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