That New Business
Every fall in my hometown, we would have this fall festival that took over our Main Street and Central Park. School would let out early that Friday and the whole weekend would have be full of things to do for everyone in the town. On Halloween every business on Main Street would all give out candy to kids, the local theater would turned into a haunted house.
My mother grew up in the town so I would usually be greeted by all of her old friends when I walked around town after school. All of us had a spot we’d meet up at after school on Friday nights to just hang out and talk shit.
I did not grow up in a city, I grew up in small town where everyone knew each other. A community that was still connected to the world at large, but given space away from everything because it was in the middle of the woods. I have been recently viewing online spaces in a similar way.
The Issue With Large Spaces Online
I am certain I have beaten this tree to death on every podcast I make, the idea that big online space in no way emulate any kind of natural way humans socialize. But I believe that online spaces do merit consideration and can provide benefits to people. I believe that small spaces with an established set of norms and rules is best for folks who feel like they’ve lost control of their spaces.
I am aware that a lot of these small spaces in the physical world are places where racism, fascism, and other very gross ideological stances brew away from the eyes of people. That does not happen by the concept of a small space itself but because of ideas being accepted by those in power, those in high places, and it trickles down to people who are already disconnected from the larger world by a certain degree. But when leaders in those communities establish that these stances are wrong and explain why they are hurtful, the conversion of a small community to a cesspool can be avoided.
I was a MySpace user back in 2006. I remember the first time my own social net expanded past the geographical limits of my small town. Even back then however, abuse was still something I commonly found myself receiving. I was an xbox live user back when Halo 3 launched, I would usually play a couple of games after school with my headset turned on. Random matchmaking with folks who did not know each other always led to people being extremely rude to each other. But I was still able to find a couple of people who were good and slowly we built up a community of people who would just play custom games together and have fun together. These people weren’t rude to each other and they treated each other with respect.
As outlined in GYOP I eventually left that small town and found myself in random IRC rooms. As what seems to be a trend in my life, I found myself in big IRC rooms only to be invited into much smaller rooms by the people I met in there. Sadiq invited me to #asininetech because #twil had started to get a little bit of too wild and we needed a place to chill out. This time though I was in a group of people who shared one important trait with me; None of us were white.
Race, identity, and gender in relation to online spaces is important to me. I was privileged and lucky to be in a space where nonwhite people could exist, where noncismen would exist. The older I have gotten, the more I have realized this is an extremely rare space to exist. On Twitter there is a substantial user base of black, latinx, middle eastern, and asian users. But they talk through back channels, whether it be a hashtag (#centralamericantwitter) or through DMs and other forms of nonpublic facing communications.
The problem being with Twitter (and by extension large public facing online spaces) is that even though these users can find ways to talk to each other without the nazis and racists finding them, those groups can still target them by nature of them existing in the same space. But this doesn’t have to be the way. As #asininetech soon turned into EntropyNet, I believe that there is a place for folks of color to exist and not be bothered by nazis and racists and bigots.
Mastodon is the most recent player in this arena. With Mastodon communities can be private by default as they are individual communities that do not have to talk to every other Mastodon community. I like Mastodon because in theory anyone who wants to build their own community now has a somewhat robust software set to go about doing that.
My issue with Mastodon is that the community and culture that has developed there is of two sorts. There is a userbase of queer white people and a userbase of white male nazis and nazi sympathizers. Anyone who does not find themselves in either of those two binaries usually leaves. I have seen it happen with many people. People who do not subscribe to X political ideology or are comfortable with X meme of the day1 find themselves not feeling welcome in the fediverse2.
I want to build a community for people of color and other marginalized folks that does not talk to places that host nazis, racists, or any bigots. My plan is for pivoting instance.business into something new.
I recognize that to a lot of people of color, saying that you want them in your community on the sole factor of them being black is not an appealing offer. There is a reason I’ve never started a podcast on Stipes Radio from the “brown perspective.” The fact that I am brown is part of me but not all of me. Skin color is not what my identity is but is a part of it. I don’t want to build a place where color is the only identifier people have. When I say that I want to build a community for nonwhite people, I mean that I want to build a community that is inclusive and does not ostracize you because you are not a binary player in the existing culture.
Safe spaces are an important thing, a space where people do not feel like they will be in danger if they speak their opinion on something is important. As long as that statement was said in good faith. More importantly a safe space where we give space for people to make mistakes and grow and learn is even more important. So while yes there will be rules and a code of conduct, allowing for mistakes to be made and for people to sat down and explained why it was wrong is important. Not everyone has the same background and the same ideas as everyone else, but giving room for people to breathe is important.
Note that this is not the same as what the Valley images a free speech zone to be. Giving people the room to make mistake and learn and grow is a different thing then allowing bigoted views to exist on your platform.
The New Business
This is what is going to happen to Business. I am not going to throw anyone off the instance. I am going to switch to a whitelist first model. And I’m going to have a strict code of conduct with a two strikes system.
For regular people this is what that means: Mastodon is a social networking site where each website you go to is it’s own self contained version of Mastodon. A Mastodon on coolkids.club is not the same as a Mastodon on coolgirls.social. Normally, both coolkids.club and coolgirls.social would automatically be able to talk to each other. When I say I want to make this whitelist first, it means that unless I add a rule where coolgirls.social is on the approved list, you will not be able to see posts from anyone on coolgirls.social.
This might seem harsh, but consider: coolgirls.social has an admin who is a nazi sympathizer and allows for forms of hate speech to exist on his Mastodon because he thinks silencing hate speech wrongful as it conflicts with free speech. I as the admin of instance.business do not give a fuck about coolgirls.social admin’s personal conflicts as he has nazis who can harass the people on instance.business. Therefore I will not add coolgirls.social to the whitelist because fascism is against the code of conduct of Business.
This will be the new Code of Conduct for the instance:
The going rule is two strikes for general offense and an immediate account deletion for major violations.
The following will not be tolerated on this instance:
- Stalking; harassing; threatening; or advocating any physical, sexual, or emotional harm against individuals or groups
- Uncivil, uncouth, or rude behaviour
- Promotion of authoritarian forms of rule, including fascism and Stalinism (no tankies or Nazis)
- Promotion of extreme violence, armed revolt, or murder
- Denial of documented genocides, pogroms, or purges
- Content that is prohibited in Germany, France, the European Union, or the United States of America
- Any sexual content featuring anyone under 18, including artistic depictions
- Consistent extreme trolling
- Fascism is not allowed. Other forms of xenophobia (Mexicans posting content which is hurtful towards folks of the isthmus for example or anti-islam sentiments) are not allowed at all.
- If someone has a condition that requires them to receive assistance, don’t police them on how they speak. Speaking in a manner which further stigmatizes conditions is not allowed. Full Stop. Do not use ableist language to attack other folks.
- Super easy, if someone tells you that they are a gender and want to be acknowledged by a certain pronoun, just fucking use it. Trans folks are humans too and will be respected as such here.
- Obvious racism is something we can all see. Sometimes we say things or come across as racist because of internalized anti-blackness and it’s important to recognize that. Racism is not tolerated. Of any kind.
- Don’t be sexist yes, but also try to think about when you post if something could be taken as sexist. You have internalized sexism and recognizing it is a good step. Sexism is not tolerated. Don’t be a creep. Recognize toxic masculinity.
A Sidebar On The Word Tankie
When I use the word tankie in the code of conduct the exact definition I’m referring to is as follows3:
A Tankie is an apologist for the violence and crimes against humanity perpetrated by twentieth-century Marxist-Leninist regimes, particularly the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin (1924 - 1953). More broadly, the term may refer to any leftist who is perceived to support or defend authoritarian regimes on the basis that they are enemies of the United States. This can include regimes that are not and do not claim to be communist such as those of Vladimir Putin in Russia and Bashir al-Assad in Syria.
When I say tankies are not allowed on the instance, I mean that people who support and push for violent insurrections against Capitalism with no considering for the class of those people under Capitalism. There is a group of folks on Mastodon who have such strong views on anarchism that anyone or anything is fair game. Being violent against the working poor just because they participate in capitalism is not ok. Making statements that support that sentiment is not ok. You are not welcome here.
There is a difference between a tankie and an ancom, I have no issues with ancoms.
Where We Go From Here
As of right now there is not an exact list of instance that will be on the whitelist. I’m going to be talking to fellow admins and work on a plan to best implement this. I will have an update post with more information.
In terms of community building what I want anyone who is new to Mastodon and thinking about picking an instance see is this:
Instance.business is a safe place for nonwhite people on the fediverse. It is ran by a nonbinary latinx person. We want to build a community where people feel safe and where people feel like they are apart of an actual community. While this instance is being advertised for people of the isthmus, people of the diaspora, we will not have an explicit check of background for new users. We aim to provide a platform for activists, creators, and people who want to get away from the dumpster fire on facebook and twitter. Thank you for considering our instance.
Instance dot business, it’s made for people like you.
Thank you for reading, I’m open to feedback on this. Please feel free to contact me. Also thank you to Sadiq for input, thank you to Eliza for starting this whole thing, thank you to Crom for giving me support, and thank you to the various other folks who have been supporting me on Mastodon.
I think that the “consistently posting I’m gay” meme is one that may turn off people, even queer folks themselves. It has it’s origins in chan culture and in bad IRC behavior. I also do not think that everyone is comfortable yelling aloud about what they’re orientation, gender, or preferences are. ↩
This is the word Mastodon users have coined to describe every Mastodon instance on the wider internet. I personally do not like it but language is a collective experience. ↩