More like Mastodon't, amirite?
August 21, 2017 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable
Ethan Zuckerman on a social network's surprising/disturbing source of popularity.
In one sense, this isn’t a surprise. Twitter is massive in Japan, where it has more users than Facebook, and is projected to be used by half of all social network users and a quarter of all internet users this year. But that’s not the whole explanation. Instead, we’ve got to talk about lolicon.
posted by Joseph Gurl (41 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Two Thoughts:

1) Clicked through thinking it was about the band.

2) Wow, it's like we've hit a singularity where this, the ACLU/EFF "Free Speech" and everything about fighting against the spread of toxic ideas has become one big.... Closest technical term I can think of is, "Mess".
posted by mikelieman at 10:54 PM on August 21, 2017 [43 favorites]


"Mastodon is huge in Japan."
Huh, that's funny. I've never heard of it, and I live in Japan and consider myself fairly internet-savvy overall.

"…primarily for the purpose of exchanging images that are of, at best, questionable legality."
ƪ(˘∀˘)ʃ
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:18 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


The ACLU and EFF are on the right side of it, though. The pendulum is currently swinging towards censorship, so it's nice to know that decentralized alternatives are out there. But I see what the author is saying. If a decentralized platform first becomes popular with some sort of unpleasant or illegal community, that can restrict later growth because no one wants to associate with "those people."
posted by Kevin Street at 11:19 PM on August 21, 2017 [8 favorites]


At least it's not Nazis?
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:20 PM on August 21, 2017 [13 favorites]


seems like a lot of twitter nazis like to use underage-looking anime girl avatars, so who the fuck knows anymore
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:30 PM on August 21, 2017 [29 favorites]


So the big problem is not necessarily that "Japanese people are posting lots of drawings of child porn on their Mastodon instances". It's their servers in their names in their jurisdictions.

The big problem is that if safeforwork.space federates with littlegirlporn.jpn, then it's gonna start making copies of every image posted to that server.

Including all that NSFW stuff that may be legal in another country but really really illegal in yours.

If you're on safeforwork.space and follow @drawsbutts@littlegirlporn.jpn, then the image URL displayed in @drawsbutts' toots is going to point to littlegirlporn.jpn, but the thumbnail gets served from safeforwork.space, as does the image that shows up in a lightbox when you click on it in your timeline. And suddenly the admin of safeforwork.space is serving stuff that's perfectly legal in Japan, but pretty damn illegal where their server and residence are...

(Hopefully there is a workaround in progress for this to mark another instance as Not Safe To Copy Images From to go along with the ability to 'mute' an instance.)
posted by egypturnash at 11:43 PM on August 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


This person is overstating the popularity of Pawoo in Japan. Some facts:

1. Twitter is not very good at policing loli content. It's not hard at all to find.
2. Almost every Japanese artist has some sort of presence on Twitter. Pawoo is nowhere near as widespread. There isn't a compelling reason to exclusively post on Pawoo when almost no one is there to read your posts. Many artists will actually crosspost from Pawoo to twitter or vice versa, so the paltry numbers you see for Pawoo are inflated.
3. You should especially not trust number of users because there was a burst of activity when Pawoo first came out.
4. If an artist wanted an uncensored platform for sharing art, there already is a popular website called Pixiv and Nico Seiga.
5. The size of the community on Twitter really dwarfs Pawoo. Twitter basically has become the medium of choice for artists to distribute quick sketches and in progress artwork.
6. Maybe Pawoo will continue to grow, but the fact is the website looks like and feels like crap, and the mobile app is nowhere near as polished as Twitter's.
7. The article doesn't give any convincing numbers about Pawoo's sustained and projected growth.
posted by rq at 11:43 PM on August 21, 2017 [11 favorites]


> there already is a popular website called Pixiv

TFA notes that Pixiv started Pawoo, and includes a screenshot of Pixiv's signup screen.

It's also quite guarded about absolute numbers.

The point, contrary to this breathless defense of Twitter as a go-to for lolicon, isn't that Mastodon use has supplanted Twitter for this kind of content, but that pressure against this content on Twitter, however succesful or not on Twitter, may be disproportionally represented in the fediverse.
posted by one weird trick at 12:44 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Remember Diaspora, the open, decentralised social network? It turned out that the only significant use case it found in the end is ISIS.
posted by acb at 2:19 AM on August 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


1) Clicked through thinking it was about the band.

Well they did cover "Sex Farm"
posted by thelonius at 3:08 AM on August 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


(Hopefully there is a workaround in progress for this to mark another instance as Not Safe To Copy Images From to go along with the ability to 'mute' an instance.)

One of the recent updates added exactly this feature, yeah.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:30 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the market has spoken, and there is no legitimate case for technologies like Diaspora and Mastodon to exist. Normal people (i.e., not criminals or terrorists) will not find the time or attention to spend on something like that in sufficient numbers for it to reach critical mass, and only the worst people ever will. Perhaps it's better if such things were regulated out of existence: if the liability for hosting something that paedonazis could end up infesting was so onerous that next to nobody would do it and nobody would touch the deranged minority who would, so they'd have to do so off-grid on a mesh network that's easily and cleanly taken out by a drone-launched missile if it ever came to that.
posted by acb at 6:27 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Tangent: nested namespaces for identity are unpleasant to deal with and that is why decentralization is difficult.

People find it easier to share email addresses if they can just say "at Gmail" because it's so widespread it barely even needs mentioning.

Long ago it seemed like people would be happy hosting their websites on *neighborhoods* in Geocities, but people preferred subdomains like on blogspot, and eventually it became weird to host your site anywhere but at its own domain. Living inside somebody else's namespace is a cognitive burden for anybody dealing with that identity.

On Twitter you are represented by your handle and nothing else. People like Twitter! Exchanging twitter handles is way easier than exchanging email addresses because it's just foobar, not foobar at bullshit dot annoyingdetail.

The problem though with avoiding sub-namespacing is that *somebody* owns that single namespace and they can control and/or monetize everybody under it. DNS used to be controlled by ICANN and country registratrs; I don't know who controls it in the brave new world of whatever dot whatever domains. The single Twitter namespace is controlled by Twitter, the controller of the beloved-because-ubiquitous gmail.com name space is Google. Those who control the namespace can censor anybody in it.

Where there's a single namespace, then territory in that namespace becomes a coveted commodity. Owning a very short domain name or twitter handle, especially a meaningful one, is a big deal. People grab deceptive ones and use them to imitate others.

So we all love single-namespace identity systems because their cognitive and social burden is WAY lower, but that creates problems of control and scarcity.

Not sure that's a problem that has a solution.

End tangent.
posted by edheil at 6:31 AM on August 22, 2017 [11 favorites]


Oh, one more thing -- namespacing makes search more difficult, and identity spoofing more easy. If there's a yourname.blogspot.com and a yourname.wordpress.com, which is the "real" you? Not obvious! Could be either or both! If somebody wants to search for you they have to go to google, maybe find both, and figure out which is which.

Even the slight sub-namespacing effect of having different TLDs means a company might have to buy companyname.com, .net, .org, and who knows what to effectively "own" its part of the domain namespace.

Having multiple namespaces is hard! Which is one reason it's really hard to get people involved in Mastodon unless they're basically just involved in one main mastodon (like pawoo) and the federation is incidental to how they use them.
posted by edheil at 6:38 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: End Tangent. Oh, one more thing...
posted by Wolfdog at 6:43 AM on August 22, 2017 [26 favorites]


> Perhaps the market has spoken, and there is no legitimate case for technologies like Diaspora and Mastodon to exist.

One argument for Masto's existence is that there are some people who don't like Twitter's dominance in the market. Or don't like ads. Or don't like being tracked. Or or or...

> Normal people (i.e., not criminals or terrorists) will not find the time or attention to spend on something like that in sufficient numbers for it to reach critical mass, and only the worst people ever will.

Me and my fellow perverts, terrorists, and communists will continue to have fun on our illicit and pointless social network, thanks.

Anyway, the Mastodon instance I'm on, and all the ones in my local neighbourhood are very well moderated and fun. Blocking Japanese child pornography is not that difficult with Mastodon's recent moderation upgrades, and the argument that it will "taint" your local server is the same argument "they" make/made about P2P, Napster, Freenet, IPFS, etc. I assure you that Twitter has Japanese child pornography sitting all over its servers despite its moderation. They probably have every image ever sent cached somewhere in a data store, even when tweets are deleted. Not to mention the thousands of "loli" accounts they haven't yet banned, or that get created every minute.

So admins in Japan can run instances full of pornography, and admins in the rest of the world can moderate the flow of federated toots and adhere to local laws, and the risk to the admin is similar to the risk that Twitter takes operating in many countries using the same servers.

I just don't buy it!
posted by sixohsix at 6:53 AM on August 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


> Clicked through thinking it was about the band.

Me, I figured they'd started cloning recovered mastodon DNA for meat.

I was outraged and searching Yelp for mammoth-niku at the same time.
posted by rokusan at 7:29 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


One thing I don't understand from the article; if Lolicon is legal and acceptable in Japan, why do they need a complex decentralized publishing system? Why isn't there just a normal commercial website that's hosted in Japan? Perhaps loli not quite as acceptable in Japan as I'm thinking?
posted by Nelson at 7:52 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


I did a lotta social network work some time ago

rule of thumb

if a social network is guarded about daily actives, monthly actives, that means it's failing

if it's growing massively it'll trumpet it out to anyone for any damn reason "we grew 500% in the last two months wooooo"
so it'll prolly die out
posted by hleehowon at 7:55 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


so it'll prolly die out

I can't disagree - I signed up for Mastadon a few months ago when it last had a splash (for more positive reasons) on the blue. I just logged back in and it looks like very few people who I followed have posted in the last few weeks or months.
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 8:00 AM on August 22, 2017


if Lolicon is legal and acceptable in Japan, why do they need a complex decentralized publishing system?

I'd guess it's not a question of a legal need, but a question of what's available and convenient at the time. And for social networks, the most important question is how many people that you want to follow are already on it, rather than the technical and legal details.

This is one reason there's so much fandom on Tumblr. Tumblr is widely considered to be a shitty platform by a lot of people who are on it, and there are other, better options now - but it was there when people needed it and and now the question is kind of settled.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:20 AM on August 22, 2017


Yeah, but there's hundreds of options for publishing media online, some going back many years. And with something like loli there's enough potential revenue you'd think someone would have made an effort at doing it commercially. So why Mastodon, and why now? It may just be one of those random things. I guess I'm trying to understand to what extent the dubious nature of the content is influencing the use of Mastodon.
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on August 22, 2017


if Lolicon is legal and acceptable in Japan, why do they need a complex decentralized publishing system?

Because centralized systems that are located in other jurisdictions can ban you or put pressure on your community in other ways.

Like when Sup purchased livejournal. Sup is in Russia, where there are anti gay propaganda laws. So LGBT friendly content posted from civilized countries where it is totally legal is done for.
posted by Dr. Curare at 8:31 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


so it'll prolly die out

Well, define die. This network is decentralized, which means anyone who wants can keep an instance alive indefinitely. Octodon is still pretty active with many regular posters, including @pzmyers. Mastodon.social too. If 'die' means not be the breathless subject of numerous hype articles on Buzzfeed etc, then sure. But there's a pretty healthy community out there untroubled by predictions of the network's death.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:36 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


I just logged back in and it looks like very few people who I followed have posted in the last few weeks or months.

The design of Mastodon means that your experience of what it's for and how busy it is will vary drastically depending on which instance you joined. This was not made sufficiently clear during the last few big joining surges, but that's been addressed since then by things like the ability to preview an instance's public timeline before you join, etc.

The most important thing about Mastodon, though, is that William Shatner can't find you there.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:44 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


What got me a little bit with these services was that the first few got overloaded quickly, at the beginning, and by the time I wanted to try it, I was looking at these sites thinking, which of these are still going to exist later? If Pixiv started Pawoo, that to me explains a huge part of why it got more adoption, because it would have a) probably been set up better to handle the load, and b) come with some reassurance that it wasn't going to vanish overnight. Which is, of course, the catch-22 about being decentralized. The whole system is less reliant on any one part, but then you're asking me to set up shop and get comfortable on a service that feels like it might be gone in a month.
posted by Sequence at 9:15 AM on August 22, 2017


The most important thing about Mastodon, though, is that William Shatner can't find you there.

Oh, you say that, but if I take one step towards the green body paint, there he is.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:02 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


if Lolicon is legal and acceptable in Japan, why do they need a complex decentralized publishing system

I'd assume it's not okay on Twitter, though - even if it's not super well policed - and this is something specifically Twitter-like.

Exactly what effect this is likely to have on the rest of the network is, as the article says, hard to say. It's my impression that it's part of the whole design that your server doesn't have to maintain contact with servers that allow stuff you want to avoid.
posted by atoxyl at 11:25 AM on August 22, 2017


Seriously, the whole pawoo thing blew over months ago. Everybody outside Japan defederated from them pretty much immediately, and then Gargron added new features to ensure that instance admins would be able to have better control over what federated materials they cache locally.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:43 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


At least it's not Nazis?

I mean, of course this is where they're going to go, though . . . What's good for whistleblowers is also good for organizing hate groups. What is needed is for the government and law enforcement to take white nationalist and domestic terrorist groups more seriously, and spend more money on both policing their real-world actions (i.e. hate marches with tiki torches) and more money on monitoring their online communities. The biggest difference between whistleblowers and underground activists versus hate groups is that for the latter to be effective then at a certain point their communities need to be lax enough in member recruitment to get enough people together to execute their attacks--and thus far more open to infiltration by law enforcement. But our government would rather spend that money and time on watching brown people than militias and fascists.
posted by schroedinger at 1:02 PM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Well, define die
A good point. For most people, the externality of a network ( I mean, that "everyone" uses it) is what gives it value; but that's not what everyone is looking for.
posted by thelonius at 1:26 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Well, define die

"The VC's won't pay for it anymore and it won't pay for itself"
By that definition, of course, this thing must necessarily be immortal. So you could edit it to "The organizers and the node folks don't care about it anymore", which may now have already happened
posted by hleehowon at 1:33 PM on August 22, 2017


Ello, errbody!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:07 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


oh god I still regularly get "come see what's happening on Ello!" emails from that day we all signed up for Ello
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:42 PM on August 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Oh man, me too with the Ello notices! What was the one we all did before Ello, that had invites...maybe attached to google?
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:29 PM on August 22, 2017


What was the one we all did before Ello, that had invites...maybe attached to google?

Tripod?

aaaand we come full circle. FPP's Ethan Zuckerman was a Tripod founder
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:39 PM on August 22, 2017


attached to google

Orkut
posted by thelonius at 7:31 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Friendster?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:44 PM on August 22, 2017


Google Wave.
posted by sagc at 8:00 PM on August 22, 2017


Lately, Mastodon gives me hope.

MetaFilter hasn't done that in a while.
posted by brennen at 8:11 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


attached to google

Limpet
posted by Wolfdog at 8:04 AM on August 23, 2017


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