How Elon Musk’s fanboys are trying to discredit Mastodon

A misleading blog article about Mastodon is currently going viral among Elon Musk’s fanboys and in right-wing circles – most recently in a publication by Ex-Bild editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt. This is disinformation with a sort of mastodon pizzagate that fits perfectly with QAnon’s conspiracy ideology. A comment.

The hope is probably that something gets stuck. (icon picture)

An article is currently circulating among fans of Elon Musk and right-wing and far-right circles claiming that Mastodon is a platform dominated by pedophiles and where the majority of content is accordingly. The November Secjuice blog article draws on an event from 2017 when some Japanese mastodon instances were established where sexualized drawings by children were posted and tolerated. That actually happened. The Japanese instances were comparatively large in the then-small Fediverse – but they were very soon blocked by the (western) Fediverse community.

However, this does not appear in the article, instead, it suggests that Mastodon is now “a social media platform” on which such content would continue to make up the majority of postings. You would only not see this content as a user because Mastodon developer Eugen Rochko had prevented the search function for this reason. And now we are all in the evil “Pedoverse” – without knowing it.

A Pizzagate for Mastodon

The disinformation at Secjuice is done quite well: The article gives itself an investigative touch, and there are many links, alleged documents, and screenshots. Everything seems somehow coherent if you read too fast. Or just saw titles and teasers without reading. The article thus constructs a kind of Pizzagate for Mastodon and fits wonderfully into the QAnon conspiracy ideology, in which progressive social forces are lumped together with child abuse.

Now, this blog article, whose author has written against Mastodon before and always talks like a buddy about “Elon” in his articles, has several weaknesses: It mixes past and present while omitting events in the past. A classic method of disinformation, misrepresenting old stories and pretending they are current. Other means of disinformation in the article are the misleading presentation of the underlying technology in the Fediverse, the responsibilities for freely available software, and the suppression of the moderation mechanics and the actual moderation practice in the Fediverse.

Taken into custody

Mastodon is freely available, open-source software that anyone can download and use. Neither Mastodon gGmbH nor the developers involved, and certainly not in any instances, have any influence on who downloads the software, installs it, and runs it somewhere on a server on the Internet.

It is not in the hands of developers of open source (social media) software how it is used later or what content people share on their servers. So wanting to hold Mastodon liable for this is one thing above all: bullshit. The enforcement of law and order or even rules of good taste and dealing with each other cannot be the responsibility of the developers of freely available software, but of the police in the respective jurisdiction, who have to take action against criminal use as soon as they become aware of it, and with the admins of the instances.

In addition, Mastodon is software that can be connected to a decentralized social network, the Fediverse. In the Fediverse you can use different software, some of which can talk to each other via a common protocol. And in the Fediverse, all instances decide for themselves whether they want to talk to other instances at all and which other instances are displayed in which form and which are not. So you are not dealing with a central platform on which Elon Musk can block any accounts on demand, but with many players who can moderate the content and “depromote” instances, i.e. exclude them or make them more difficult to see. And that happens too.

Transparent lists of which instances are blocked

A well-maintained instance in the Fediverse will transparently show a list of the instances it has blocked and the reasons why, as can be seen with the example of a mastodon. social or chaos. social. Instance admins also share which instances they block and keep these lists up to date. For example, the Japanese instance Pawoo, which was blocked in 2017, is still on the block lists today. Servers that do not block such instances are also often locked out. So there is a functioning system of moderation that has these problems on the screen. Netzpolitik.org was able to see a comprehensive collection of hundreds of instance block lists that shows exactly that.

The majority of the community also moderates other inhuman attitudes such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia and blocks instances that do not actively take action against this content. That’s why right-wing mastodon projects like Gab.ai don’t stand a chance in the community and wither away in isolation. In fact, it is the responsibility of the respective authorities to disconnect certain communities in the Fediverse as soon as they become aware of it. And they do.

Another task that lies with the developers and the Mastodon community is the exclusion of such instances from lists of available instances as maintained at joinmastodon.org  or elsewhere. Here, too, attention is increasingly being paid to this, as the first common rules show.

Fact-free fanboys

For fact-free fanboys of Musk, conspiracy ideologues, and right-wing actors, the article by Secjuice is a godsend, as they can discredit the alleged “Woken” and their new digital home.

So does Julian Reichelt, the former editor-in-chief of Bild: He took up the topic on his campaign page and turned the unsustainable story even further against public broadcasters and in particular Jan Böhmermann and Georg Restle. The two media representatives, hated in right-wing circles, had recently been intensively promoting a move to Mastodon. From this, Reichelt’s side now knits a kind of complicity with criminal content and ends with the incredible sentence that the two unwelcome opinions would apparently be harder to bear “than that”. In the style of the QAnon ideology.

Apparently, the operators of right-wing disinformation are fine with any means.

Editor’s note:
We have neither linked the blog article discussed nor Reichelt’s campaign page because we do not want to feed these publications with more attention. If you are interested, consult a search engine. Our writing on this topic at has been a tradeoff between the attention it gives to the spreaders of disinformation and the proliferation of this misrepresentation, which we feel should be housed and debunked because it is already so prevalent.

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