This post is in response to the GitHub Issue
“Quote Toots #12753” (Archived Page). I opened this issue a while ago requesting that Mastodon add an easier way to quote users than linking to their post. This sparked users concerns including online harassment and their right to delete what they say on the public internet. This post responds to various points made on the GitHub issue.
Private entities are free to do what they want to do
Before I go over any points in this article I want to clarify that I believe private entities are free to do what they want. If the Mastodon Project want to ban users whose favorite color is purple, it’s their site their rules, of course be sure to ban me too because my favorite color is purple. 😉
The Mastodon Project is a private entity and can choose to include features or not include them, they’re also free to delete GitHub issues/comments they disagree with in their repositories. Under no circumstance do I believe that they should be forced to do anything they don’t want to. This blog post exists so I can state my opinions on a platform that they don’t control (I have a feeling some of my comments today will be hidden 🤐).
Back to the key question
I do not believe that anyone has the right or should be able to delete someone’s quotation of them-self. Quoting for purposes of commentary and criticism is protected fair use under copyright law. Just because you disagree with something someone has to say doesn’t mean that you have a right to delete it even when it’s about you. Anything else threatens freedom of expression.
Responding to concerns I saw on GitHub
What’s the right to be forgotten?
In Europe people have the right to be forgotten about and have certain negative information about themselves removed from the internet. It’s understandable people want to let go of the past. Such a law has huge free speech implications and bans speech about an individual. If someone quotes and attributes you in a way that can’t be erased it may infringe on this right. When you effectively ban speech about an individual it may be the highest form of political censorship aside from banning a political party. To be clear this is censorship by the government not a private entity.
What is call out culture?
In the linked GitHub discussion thread concerns on enabling call-out culture were raised. For those unaware, the phrase “call-out culture” references an ongoing issue on social networking websites where someone will quote another who said something offensive. Afterwards their followers will sometimes harass the quoted individual. This can even go to great lengths such as calling someone’s employer and trying to get them fired from their job. It’s just a bunch of internet users acting like children and telling the adults on each other and should be treated as such.
Quotes are anti-social!!!
I believe this point was actually in a linked Mastodon thread, but I’ll discuss it here anyways. People raised concerns that quotes are anti-social and that you should reply instead. Not everyone wants to debate with you, often quoting why you believe something someone said is wrong is an important part of online discussion. It’s probably best that people who disagree talk to their own audience not each other. But for a project which believes that quotes are anti-social they sure use them a lot 🤔
Mastodon Maintainers have explained their design decision already
The Mastodon Project wrote a blog post outlining their design decisions. It boils down to they believe certain features on Twitter were abused so they’re disabling them entirely in their software. It’s well worth a read and you can decide whether if you agree with them or not.
A proposed change in Mastodon raises concerns on the freedom of expression. People are free to make their own forks of Mastodon so it’s a limited issue. People who are concerned can and should make their own ActivityPub projects. I hope this article was informative and that you enjoyed the memes along the way. Now that I think about it – it was like one of those educational games. You know where you get to play a few seconds and then have to solve a math problem to continue. No? Alright I feel old…