An Open Letter Calling for the Resignation of Eugen Rochko (Gargron) from Mastodon Developmentmastodon fediverse open letter living document
This is a “Living Document”, meaning that it may be edited over time, mainly to add signees
In recent times, users and administrators across the wider Fediverse community have raised concerns with Eugen’s leadership in maintaining Mastodon software, and lack of moderation on his own instances mastodon.social and mastodon.online. We, the undersigned, feel that it is in the best interest of the Fediverse community that Eugen resign from his role as maintainer of the mainline Mastodon code, as well as its auxiliary software, including but not limited to the Mastodon iOS App.
Eugen’s personal views on how Mastodon should develop are damaging to the Fediverse
This is most evident by how he handled the GitHub issue that I (Sierra) filed relating to the Mastodon iOS App regarding the lack of ability to see the local timeline (public posts from one’s instance) or the federated timeline (public posts from all instances that federate with one’s own). Dissenting opinion in cases like these always result in getting one’s comment deleted, the issue thread locked to discussion, and being banned from contributing to Mastodon’s code, which has happened to many people I know. I’m writing this on my personal website partially because I wasn’t allowed to comment further on Eugen’s responses directly.
Eugen intentionally omitted this core feature from the Mastodon iOS app, saying that they “might have made sense for early Mastodon… …but nowadays the signal to noise ratio makes them a liability in almost every aspect.” His goal is to bring Mastodon to a more homogenized state, prioritizing gaining as many new users as possible over the user experience of the existing community. The local timeline is the most important part of a Fediverse community, without it, there would be no identity to an instance.
Counterpoints to Eugen’s responses
The fediverse is diverse because you can follow anyone from any server. The local timeline plays no role in that and doesn’t even exist in ActivityPub as a concept.
The local timeline plays an important role in allowing people to choose the server that would be right for them. Why have thousands of instances if the only differences between them are emojis and the domain name at the end of one’s username? As for it not existing in ActivityPub, that doesn’t matter. Mastodon was originally built with a local timeline. This difference between Home, Local and Federated became the basis for most other alternative Fediverse software. It’s the main reason why we use this platform.
The “local” timeline makes the concept of “you can follow anyone from any server” less concise because suddenly you do care what server you are on
We should care what instance we’re on. Community is the most important part of a social platform. The Fediverse is unique in that we can have our own community to call home, but communicate across to other communities to our friends who prefer the community on another instance.
In UX tests with randomly selected, non-technical people, stumbling upon local or federated timelines has predominantly led to frustration either through language barriers, spam, or not safe for work content. I know that we might disagree about the size of server we have in mind or what constitutes a big server, but I think you’ll agree that even on a small and perfectly moderated server at least 2 of the 3 issues are likely to occur, if not in one timeline then another. And, unless you advocate for an “upload filter” type system, no moderation will be able to prevent exposure to spam and offensive content at least temporarily, at least in an open system which is what we’re focusing on. In short, these types of timelines are hurting Mastodon’s adoption and present a risk for the app on the App Store since Apple will hold the app accountable for user generated content.
This is a big one that requires a few points.
Third party Mastodon apps have been on the App Store for years, and have not been taken down for having a Federated timeline.
NSFW and offensive content is a problem on large platforms. This is an issue of moderation. Instances can choose to block servers with lax moderation practices so their users won’t see their posts. The largest problem of poorly moderated instances lately is mastodon.social, which has only a dozen moderators to control half a million accounts. Eugen has direct control over this instance and has not addressed the repeated harassment towards LGBTQ people and people of color, but has instead dismissed reports and claimed there is no problem.
Mastodon App is just the tip of the iceberg of Eugen’s mismanagement. In 2020, he has allegedly taken over €60,000 to partner with the European digital surveillance data collection firm EUnomia. EUnomia’s operations are better summarized by this post by paulfree14 on librenet.de. Eugen is literally selling out Fediverse users to data collection agencies, not exclusively limited to users on Mastodon instances as they scrape public posts. EUnomia has in the past sold this data to large advertising companies, namely Google, as well as law enforcement agencies. This poses a risk to marginalized groups who are targeted by police on a daily basis.
Mastodon gets its funding from individual sponsors and several companies and organizations. The sponsorship application form contains the following notice:
We cannot accept sponsorships that are not appropriate for all audiences, e.g. no pornographic material, casinos or gambling sites, and in broader terms, nothing that would reflect badly on the Mastodon project. If you have questions, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not actually enforced. Eugen will get money from anywhere he sees fit. Here is a list of all companies listed as sponsors on joinmastodon.org/sponsors Note that sex work and adult content is perfectly acceptible, however Eugen is being hypocritical about his guidelines.
- SexToy Education: Sex toy review website
- Value Marketing: redirects to CasinoTop, a casino website
- SexToyCollective: Sex toy review website
- bcs.net: Online casino review site
- BC Online: Online casino review site
- SisterSites: Online casino review site
- Assembly Four: Online sex work platform developers
- AusCasinos: Online casino site
- CasinoHex (multiple): Casino site with multiple different company fronts in different countries
- Joy Love Dolls: Sex toy site
- AltCasino: Casino site
- MySexToyGuide: Sex toy review site
- OCA: Casino site
- laatukasinot: Casino site
- CanadaRealCasino: Casino site
- Inkedin: Casino site
- Casino Fiables: Casino site
Other ethically ambiguous sponsors include:
- PapersOwl: Sketchy essay writing website
- LeoBoost: pay to buy instagram likes
- Writers Per Hour: Essay writing Site
- Edusson: Essay writing site
- Spyic: Spyware cell phone tracker marketed towards helicopter parents
- BitLaunch: VPS service where only cryptocurrency is accepted as payment
- RapidEssay: Essay writing service
90% of Mastodon’s company sponsors violate their own sponsorship rules, or are ethically questionable.
Eugen Rochko doesn’t care about how we, the community, use Mastodon. He only cares about making something that will get venture capital money. The changes so far are limited to the Mastodon iOS App, but we fear that this may lead to Mastodon completely removing local and federated timelines. There are forks, but they will become far harder to maintain. Forks and alternatives would have more visibility control than Mastodon, leading to privacy issues. New users won’t know that everyone on the Fediverse can see all their posts. They won’t know that they can post publicly to their followers without their posts showing to everyone using the unlisted visibility. Eugen is more concerned with building this homogenized Mastodon than adding accessibility features that we have asked for and been ignored.
There will always be differences in how people view Mastodon should proceed, but moving towards completely eliminating local and federated timelines would cause many instances running mainline Mastodon to shut down. Our communities and cultures would be erased. The only way we can keep Mastodon from going down this path is to have Eugen resign immediately and let the community maintain its code. If Eugen doesn’t resign, the only alternative we have is creating new software to migrate to, and that would result in many users leaving forever.
- Sierra Myers - @email@example.com, 7/31/2021
- Violet - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 7/31/2021
- Aurora Myers - @email@example.com, 7/31/2021
- Cobalt - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 7/31/2021
- Wonderland Gang 🌸 - @email@example.com, 7/31/2021
- Mike Turner - @Mycroft@meow.social, 7/31/2021
- Rez - @The1AndMany@plural.cafe, 7/31/2021
- @firstname.lastname@example.org, 7/31/2021
- Effie K. - @email@example.com, 7/31/2021
- Raz - @RazyDazzle@kolektiva.social, 7/31/2021
- Stephen T. Stone - @Stephen_Stone@chitter.xyz, 7/31/2021
- Subnet - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 7/31/2021
- Susan - email@example.com, 7/31/2021
- Holly Lotor - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 7/31/2021
- Agatha Rose - @AgathaSorceress@eldritch.cafe, 7/31/2021
- The System - @email@example.com, 7/31/2021
- Inga - @IngaLovinde@embracing.space, 7/31/2021
- Akira - @TPO100Cofficial@notbird.site, 7/31/2021
- Fen - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 7/31/2021
- Christopher Snowhill - @email@example.com, 7/31/2021
- Uncle Reaton - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/1/2021
- Luna - @email@example.com, 8/1/2021
- Whacker - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/1/2021
- Elk Cloner - @email@example.com, 8/1/2021
- Jordyn Hyde - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/1/2021
- Alexis Marie Wright - @email@example.com, 8/1/2021
- Steve Lord - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/1/2021
- Vegard Fjeldberg - @email@example.com, 8/2/2021
- Ella - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/3/2021
- Mark Hughes - @email@example.com, 8/4/2021
- Alexis Werefox - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/8/2021
- LNKR/Sedmoy - @email@example.com, 8/21/2021
- Austin Huang - @firstname.lastname@example.org, 10/14/2021
- Flussence - @email@example.com, 10/16/2021
- Edit 7/31/2021 22:02 EDT: Added sponsorships section.
- Edit 8/2/2021 15:33 EDT: Added link to a community French translation
- Edit 8/21/2021 20:35 EDT: Added link to a community Russian translation