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Mozilla Wants to Create a Kinder Social Network
Mozilla.Social is relying on aggressive content moderation to create a social platform that's welcoming, open, and kind.
Mozilla's Mastodon instance doesn't allow misinformation or harassment. They won't stand for public shaming or any explicit or veiled threats either. This is because Mozilla wants a kinder social network.
In December 2022, Mozilla announced that it would create its own Mastodon server, hosted at Mozilla.Social and that the nonprofit would rely on aggressive content moderation policies to create a social platform that would be more welcoming, open, and kind. It’s now in private beta and you can join the wait list.
Creating a kinder social network aligns with the nonprofit's Pledge for a Healthy Internet, which in part "promotes civil discourse, human dignity, and individual expression."
The Verge's David Pierce adds that the Pledge will help drive Mozilla.Social's improvements over other social media platforms.
The Pledge’s thesis is that the internet is real life, that everyone must be able to use it and feel welcome on it, and that the internet’s job is to make life better. But also in part because content moderation really is the main product of any social network — and if you want to make social better, that’s where you have to start.
While some may disagree with Mozilla’s content moderation stance, history shows that without strong guidelines, misinformation and toxic content will flourish online. For example, Twitter’s (now called X) so-called “free speech” policies have resulted in an increase in hate speech and toxic content under Elon Musk’s leadership.
But Mozilla isn’t bothered by those who believe content moderation is censorship. “If you are looking for a social network that permits all speech, without limitation, Mozilla.Social may not be the right place for you,” notes Mozilla’s content moderation policy.
Mozilla understands that many have experienced online hate, misinformation, or bullying, and they want to offer a better place for those looking to escape toxic online environments. As a result, they’re willing to remove any content deemed harmful to its users.
Mozilla.Social users should be able to express their opinions, and to engage in passionate and open dialogue without becoming subject (or subjecting others) to bullying or harassment. With that in mind, Mozilla will remove posts that appear to be shared for the purpose of diminishing, degrading or shaming others, causing them fear, or otherwise tormenting them. Egregious or repeated violations of this policy may result in permanent suspension of the user’s account.
Mozilla’s policies are vastly different from existing social platforms. The organization believes this is largely because other companies are motivated by profit and user growth. They’re “willing to tolerate and amplify really toxic content because it looks like engagement,” says Carolyn O’Hara, Mozilla’s senior director of content. Other social platforms don’t care about standards but are just looking out for their bottom lines, she adds. And users are becoming more aware of this.
“Consumers feel that the vibes are off a little bit…these platforms aren’t necessarily working in their best interests, or satisfying them,” O’Hara says.
Meanwhile, Mozilla.Social is a reminder of how social media used to be. In the early days or Twitter, users posted about their meals and shared cat pictures on their timeline. These were more calm and less harmful times for social media. Perhaps Mozilla will help bring the positive vibes back to social networking.
“We believe that it’s really important that people can go online and, like, engage and share cat pictures or yuk it up with my friends,” Steve Teixeira, Mozilla’s chief product officer, tells The Verge.
I applaud Mozilla for creating a social platform that values user's well being and for understanding that putting users first is a good start to building a more friendly, open, and fun platform. And maybe in the process Mozilla.Social will align with the company’s mission to “make the internet a healthier, happier place for everyone.”