Two days ago diaspora*, the open source social network that was designed as an alternative to Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) for people who wanted to stay in control of their personal information, revealed that there had been an influx of ISIS fighters to its network after being pushed off Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) and other networks and that “there is no central server, and there is therefore no way for the project’s core team to manipulate or remove contents from a particular node in the network,” but that doesn’t mean the diaspora* team is without options.
Today they put up another blog post explaining that they have mechanisms in place to deal with ‘problem content,’ it’s just that those mechanisms are distributed and the core team can’t use them by fiat.
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diaspora* lets podmins deal with ‘inappropriate usage’
“diaspora* can and does deal with inappropriate usage,” they write. “As with everything in a decentralized project, the ability and responsibility to deal with inappropriate usage are devolved, from the one central body of the centralized corporate model of Facebook or Twitter to individual podmins and individual community members.”
While the first post may have been clear to people who use diaspora*, it’s easy to see why ‘no way … to manipulate or remove contents,’ was taken literally. What actually happens, apparently, is that users can report content to pod administrators, or podmins, who get to set their own policies for what is or is not acceptable. In this case, the diaspora* core team reached out to podmins and asked them to close ISIS-linked accounts. One podmin had some technical issues that caused a delay, but otherwise everyone agreed and removed the ISIS-related content and accounts without argument.
diaspora* could have a problem if podmins don’t cooperate
The question you’re probably asking is, what if someone had refused? What if one person, whether out of sympathies from the group or just an extreme sense of what free speech entails, decided that he or she wouldn’t close the ISIS accounts. If diaspora* has a way to deal with intractable podmins, it’s not clear what they are. Taking it a step further, if ISIS started its own pod within the diaspora* network the other pods wouldn’t be able to shut it down, even if they could decide not to connect with it in the future.