Dealing with problem content in a distributed system

22 August 2014

A number of journalists have responded to our recent blog post about Islamic State accounts on diaspora* with articles under headlines such as 'Diaspora cannot ban IS accounts'. This is simply untrue, and misrepresents what our last post said. This may come from a lack of understanding of the distributed nature of the network. We hope this follow-up post helps to clarify the situation.

diaspora* can and does deal with inappropriate usage. As with everything in a decentralized project, the ability and responsibility to deal with inappropriate usage are devolved, from the one central body of the centralized corporate model of Facebook or Twitter to individual podmins and individual community members.

We have always had mechanisms in place to deal with inappropriate usage of the network. Some time ago this was made a lot easier and more efficient by the introduction of the report feature. Using this, each diaspora* community member is able easily to report any post or comment they believe is inappropriate to the administrator of their pod. Once alerted, it is the responsibility of that podmin to decide how best to deal with that content. This decision will be based on their personal policy on dealing with such content, as well as the local legislation governing the hosting of such material which applies where they live and where their pod is hosted. This system has worked very well.

It's worth repeating: diaspora* does indeed have mechanisms in place to deal with inappropriate usage. Like everything else in diaspora*, these mechanisms are decentralized. That is the point our last post addressed.

As our last post made clear, by the time that post was written all of the most active IS accounts had already been closed by the podmins on whose pods those accounts had been opened. One podmin had technical difficulties in removing accounts which caused a few hours' delay, but in each case the decision and action was swift once alerted to the presence of those accounts.

As we said in the last post, if you find user accounts on a diaspora* pod which are a cause for concern, please be a responsible member of our community by contacting the administrator of that pod; most pods display a link to contact the podmin. If you cannot reach the podmin directly, you can send us an email and we will attempt to contact the person concerned.