Social media platform Mastodon last week suspended an account of the Assam Police saying it will “not welcome cops”.
Many Indian Twitter users recently shifted to Mastodon as they were unhappy with the way the microblogging site had allegedly censored content, restricted accounts, and failed to act against trolls. Mastodon is being described as the paradisiacal social media platform free from vitriol, abusive trolling, and targeted advertising. Many Indians have said Mastodon takes reports of abusive content seriously.
“One of the moderators of Mastodon Social informed that our account has been suspended following reports from users who didn’t feel ‘safe’ with our presence and that they will not ‘welcome cops on this instance’,” the Assam Police said in a statement, adding that their account was suspended on grounds that were beyond “rational or logical reasoning”.
Mastodon is a decentralised, open-source social media platform. It is not owned by any single person or company. Each user signs up for what can be described as an instance or a node, based on one’s content and privacy preferences. An instance or a node is essentially a sub-universe within Mastodon, where you can meet, follow, and interact with like-minded people. The closest comparative in the non-Mastodon world would be chat rooms of yore, or WhatsApp groups today – but on a public, larger scale. An instance can be as small as your own family, and the data are owned by the user and not Mastodon.
The Assam Police can still create an account or other instances, users pointed out on Twitter. “The account of the Assam Police has been suspend from this instance,” a moderator on Mastodon Social said on November 14. “We decided that we will not welcome cops on this instance, and we encourage the rest of the fediverse to do the same. Following multiple reports, we decided that it’s more important that our community feels safe and in security, than to be a platform for official communication.”
“In continuation of our efforts to create engage positively and mobilize communities, we joined Mastodon Social on 14th November and posted a toot highlighting the importance of Cyber Safety,” the police statement said. “Apparently, a public service agency reaching out to the Mastodon community with a cyber safety message for children broke Mastodon’s code of conduct. Science tells us that there is an infinite number of universes, but in none of those universes can cyber safety messages for children fall under the realm of unsafe.”
“Over the years, our presence on social media has empowered citizens, allowing us to create engaged communities on various platforms,” the police statement added. “Our efforts in community mobilization and raising awareness on various issues, including misinformation have been widely acknowledged globally. Our decision to join Mastodon Social was to extend our positive and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders of society.”
The police added that the suspension left them “bewildered” and made them “wonder about the intentions” of the space. “The Mastodon moderators could possibly have looked at our work on various platforms before pulling the plug,” the statement added.
The Mastodon layout has tiles across the screen, displaying toots, Mastodon-speak for posts, from users. The handles are similar to Twitter, beginning with “@”. Users’ profile pages are also similar to those on Twitter. The re-tweets are called boost here and instead of liking a toot, you can favourite it by clicking the star icon, like it was on Twitter earlier.