Mozilla launches Mastodon server to test new content moderation

5 May 2023

Image: © Can/

The not-for-profit said it is testing content moderation that is different to other social media platforms, with no focus on free speech or ‘neutrality’.

Mozilla is expanding its presence on Mastodon with a private beta, as the organisation tests its alternative approach to other social media sites.

The not-for-profit first announced plans to test its space at the end of 2022, as part of a plan to solve “technical, experience and trustworthiness challenges” that exist in large social media systems.

Now, Mozilla said it is making a “long-term investment” with claims it can contribute to making Mastodon and social media “better”. The social media space has a waitlist for users that want to join the site.

The social media beta will have specific rules around content moderation, which Mozilla claims will be different to other social media platforms.

“We understand that individual expression is often seen, particularly in the US, as an absolute right to free speech at any cost,” Mozilla said in a blog post. “Even if that cost is harm to others. We do not subscribe to this view.”

“We’re building an awesome sandbox for us all to play in, but it comes with rules governing how we engage with one another. You’re completely free to go elsewhere if you don’t like them.”

The not-for-profit also appeared to take swing at other sites, as Mozilla said it isn’t planning on building another  “self-declared ‘neutral’ platform”.

“We believe that far too often, ‘neutrality’ is used as an excuse to allow behaviours and content that’s designed to harass and harm those from communities that have always faced harassment and violence,” Mozilla said.

“Our content moderation plan is rooted in the goals and values expressed in our Mozilla Manifesto – human dignity, inclusion, security, individual expression and collaboration.”

Twitter has been criticised for some of its decisions around promoting free speech, which was one of the key goals Elon Musk promoted in the lead up to his acquisition of the site.

Last month, Twitter revealed updates to limit the reach of tweets that violate the site’s policies rather than removing them outright, or “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach”.

The social media site also updated its hateful conduct policy to remove specific protections for its transgender users, which led to criticism from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic