Friday, May 31, 2019

Gab Will Become a Mastodon Fork

Gab (Hacker News):

Progress on our new codebase is going well. For those who don’t know, our plan is to fork existing open source software, Mastodon, which is based on the ActivityPub social networking protocol.


You’ll be able to log into and use dozens of existing mobile apps that exist on both App Stores with your Gab account and use Gab through these apps.


Moving to the ActivityPub protocol as our base allows us to get into mobile App Stores without even having to submit and get approval of our own apps, whether Apple and Google like it or not.

App Review’s previous stated rationale for rejecting the Gab app was that the service didn’t do a good enough job of moderating the user-generated content. Gab claimed that they try their best to do this but that Apple’s requirements are impossible to meet. Clearly, Twitter and other social networks don’t always meet them, either. But Twitter is too-big-to-reject, and Gab has a reputation for offensive content, attracting a community of users that were banned or had their posts deleted from Twitter.

This new move is interesting because Mastodon is federated, and as far as I can tell, each sub-community has its own rules. Some of them are probably already less moderated than Gab was, yet they haven’t attracted similar attention, and so the various apps were in no danger of being banned.

I wonder how Apple and Google will respond. I could see them not caring, so long as accessing the Gab content requires typing in a server address. I could also see them requiring apps to actively block that address.


Update (2019-07-15): Gab:

Google is now banning open source Fediverse/ActivityPub protocol apps the moment Gab becomes a top trending app.

Our app, like every other Fediverse app, doesn’t have any user content. It can connect to ANY server in the Fediverse. Otherwise it is a blank slate.

We have 7 days to comply with these demands, which are impossible to comply with. The Fediverse is decentralized! We can’t moderate content for thousands of servers we don’t control!

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

So yeah, this is really interesting. As abhorrent as Gab is, the idea that they forked an open source codebase isn't a problem (that's the point of OSS). I can't imagine Apple basically banning every app that can potentially connect to a bad actor… Imagine an RSS reader/browser/mail client/etc that couldn't connect to some servers because Apple (or another monolith) deems that domain 'bad'. Doing so basically kills the open internet (which is probably a net benefit to Apple and other platform owners).

I can see platform owners deciding that if there are pre-selected/pre-loaded servers that have objectionable content built into the app rejecting it, as that seems an obvious violation of platform rules.

Gab is awesome, adversity breeds strength! Kudos!!

[…] It’s actually an interesting question whether apps should be reviewed based on what they technically do vs. what they are marketed to do vs. what customers end up choosing to do with them. The same issue came up with Gab. […]

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