As outrage over Twitter India's alleged bias grows, journalists and activists 'migrate' to Mastodon: How to join this open source micro-blogging site
With suspensions and ineffectiveness to deal with Twitter trolls, Mastodon is gaining popularity in India.
An alternative social network called Mastodon is getting new users from India lately. So much so that its founder Eugen Rochko posted a special message to welcoming everyone. What exactly is going on and why are people suddenly signing up to this not-so-popular social network?
As reported by The Hindu Business Line, Mastodon’s gain in Indian users comes from the suspension of Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hedge’s Twitter account. After some of his tweets got reported, the micro-blogging site suspended his account. Following his suspension, Hegde joined Mastodon and said that he will be using the platform henceforth. Several Indian journalists and activists started "migrating" to the open-source micro-blogging platform in protest to Twitter's handling of its alleged 'bias'. It resulted in a snowball effect and people have started moving to Mastodon, some even claiming to minimising their Twitter usage.
What is Mastodon?
As evident, it’s an alternate ad-free social network where you can do all the basic social networking activities. This includes posting text, images, videos, and links. However, its implementation is different from other social media companies. It’s open-source and decentralised which means that a single entity or server isn’t running the data of the entire network.
Anyone can create their own Mastodon server to their liking and customise it. Every such server is called an “Instance”. A popular analogy used to explain this concept is of email. If Mastodon is “email” then an Instance is an email provider. Essentially, all the various Instances will provide the service of Mastodon to its users. The creators can apply their own rules to their Instances and the community in it can moderate it as well. This one feature alone makes it more effective to deal with trolls on the platform. One can join multiple Instances with the same account and continue posting in them.
How does it work?
Mastodon is pretty similar to Twitter so if you’ve already used the latter, then it should be easier to understand. Tweets are called ‘Toots’ and privacy settings allow you to keep your account public, unlisted, or for your followers only. Unlike Twitter’s 280 character limit, your toots are limited to 500 characters. Other users can be mentioned by their usernames in your toots and it can contain media, links, and hashtags as well.
All toots appear in a chronological timeline and you can reply to other toots normally. Instead of “Retweet”, Mastodon calls it “Boost” and you can boost other toots, or your own toot as well. Like tooting your own horn. You can’t quote a toot that could act as a good deterrent from being trolled by others. Users can favourite toots just like the other platforms. However, it won’t list down all your favourite toots like Twitter.
You can mute, block and report other users. Reporting someone will send the report to the moderators of that Instance only. Reported users will be reviewed and there could either be no action, just a warning or they could be banned from the Instance. This works out way better than waiting for a global team of moderators to look into reported content like that on Facebook or Twitter.
There are three timelines including Home, Local and Federated. Your Home timeline lists down users that you follow and the Local timeline lists down toots from everyone in that Instance, regardless of whether you follow them or not. In the Federated timeline, toots from all Instances are loaded which also acts as a good section for discovery.
Instances are denoted as an address or domain that looks like 'mastodon.social' or 'mastodon.technology'. When you wish to join an Instance, you have to know the exact domain that needs to be entered. Some are public and you will need to send an application to private Instances. You will be allowed to enter only if your application is passed by the moderators.
How to join?
As a starting point, we would recommend you to join the 'mastodon.social' Instance. Head over to its official website and create your account. After signing up, you will be asked to confirm your email. There isn’t a single official Mastodon client but several of them created by the community. Client apps are present across mobile operating systems including Android, iOS, and SailfishOS. It’s also present in the form of web tools and desktop clients across Linux, macOS, and Windows. The website has listed some of these apps. For Android, we would recommend Tusky and Toot! on iOS.
If you wish to discover more Instances, visit the website and click on 'Get Started'. You will be scrolled down to the section where several Instances are listed. Search for your preferred Instance using the Category and Language drop-down list. Join and fill up the details where the private Instances will ask you to explain why you should be allowed into the community.
Who to follow?
Twitter user Shubhodeep Pal has created a thread of several activists, lawyers, and journalists who have created a Mastodon account. The thread also lists down the usernames of those people so that you can follow them. When inside Mastodon, you can discover more people by searching with the hashtag “#india”.
I'm compiling a thread of Twitter users who have joined Mastodon. Will keep updating this as more folks boycott Twitter. (I'm at email@example.com)
— Shubhodeep Pal (@diaporesis) November 7, 2019
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