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Decentralization and enthusiasm

Feb. 12, 2021雑記

Even though Twitter faced a storm of criticism for its content regulation, they are still one of the flourishing social media, and its stock is skyrocketing. Due to Twitter’s recent decisions, some political enthusiasts have moved to other social networking services to pursue free speech. Some of them were very anarchic, and big Tech made every effort to suspend them, including rejection of providing servers to them or suspension of their domains.

Because the Fediverse was expected to be one of their immigration places, there has been enormous controversy over the potential implications of such political enthusiasts in Fediverse. In reality, most of them were not attracted to decentralized social networks. However, as one of the Fediverse users, I think the fediverse is probably the best place for free speech, rather than the newly-launched centralized social media with moderators. Why haven’t they chosen the fediverse?

The biggest reason is that decentralized social networks are designed to prevent enthusiasm. For example, the numbers of likes and reposts (retweets in Twitter) are often inaccurate or even invisible on some servers. Also, most fediverse servers do not show trending posts and hashtags. These restrictions prevent users from being agitated and encourage them to form an opinion on their own. On the contrary, Twitter’s design fosters enthusiasm and agitation. Users read posts that many users read and reposted. Though this allows us to acquire valuable information much faster than old media, the system structurally rewards provocative content because strong emotions naturally draw many people’s attention. The agitators and influencers utilize this feature to manipulate the crowd effectively for their commercial or political purposes. For this reason, Twitter’s recommendation algorithms are blamed by both sides of the political spectrum, and there is a call for accountability to users.

Fediverse’s design that prevents agitation is good for civilization, but it will be one of the reasons why the fediverse will not become so popular. Many people, not even limited to political enthusiasts, seek a place that allows them to have strong emotions (e.g., anger, sadness, hatred) and share them with others. For this purpose, what they truly need is a massive monolithic public space rather than a loose federation of diverse spaces. As long as Fediverse continues to go its own way, it seems to be difficult to become as popular as other social platforms. Nevertheless, the fediverse must retain its values, hence growing slowly but steadily.