Can Mastodon be India’s new Twitter?

Hyderabad: A new social networking site Mastodon is trending in India and Twitter has seen a large number of Indians opt-out of its site. It all began after Twitter suspended senior advocate Sanjay Hegde’s account, and netizens have come out in support by migrating to other social networking sites, which do not hamper freedom of speech. “Migrate to an alternate platform like Mastodon” was what the lawyer at the Supreme Court told the media after he considered taking Twitter to court.

Why Twitter has problems
Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher who works on the Internet, had his Twitter account suspended for a few hours because he had shared the phone number of a public official in a tweet last year. Twitter’s bots didn’t actually realise that an official’s number would be public by itself. This arbitrariness in Twitter’s policy is the problem, says the researcher based in Hyderabad. “Twitter doesn’t suspend people who spread hate, but it efficiently suspends accounts of Kashmiris, Muslims, or Dalits when they speak against the establishment. Mastodon India’s new twitter is designed specifically to stop spreading hate. It offers a better alternative in the sense that there are people moderating it, and you are in control of what you post and what you see,” he said.

What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a social networking website launched in 2016 by Eugen Rochko and team. While it is similar to the micro-blogging Twitter, it differs from it on many accounts. Unlike Twitter, Mastodon is an open-source self-hosted social networking service. This means that a single server does not hold the whole website’s data. Instead, each user is an independently operated server (called “Instance”) which they can create and customise.

Mastodon provides social networking service through these “Instances”, like how Gmail provides email services. Anyone can create and make rules for their Instances, or join multiple Instances from the same account and post content. Moreover, Mastodon is ad-free.

How do people post on Mastodon?
All users can make profiles, post messages, images or videos on this platform. However, it has set a 500-character limit for its “Toots”, similar to Tweets. Mastodon calls their Retweet button “boost”, and they also have the “favourite” function like Twitter.

As far as blocking and muting is concerned, Mastodon allows these functions too. Reports about blocking or other options will be sent to the moderators and reviewed. What makes this special is the involvement of a team of moderators across the world in an Instance, unlike a centralised control put forth by Facebook or Twitter. This could also ensure proper redressal to trolls that go out-of-bounds.

Mastodon has a “content warning” feature, which can be used to hide content with a click-through feature. There are three timelines in an Instance: Home, Local and Federated. Home Timeline is for users you follow; Local shows the toots of people in your instance while Federated shows toots from all Instances.

How to join Mastodon?

Anyone familiar with Twitter will find Mastodon easy to handle. Just sign up through their official account and explore.

Amritha Mohan

Amritha Mohan

Amritha Mohan is currently Reporter with Newsmeter based in Hyderabad. She was teaching in the Dept. of Journalism and Mass Communication, NEHU Shillong for the past one year. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and Newslaundry.

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