- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The open-source social media platform Mastodon is offering users refuge from the reign of Elon Musk at Twitter.

Mastodon currently boasts 4.5 million users and, according to a press release from the company, recorded 300,000 new users after it was announced that Mr. Musk would be purchasing Twitter.

The app, which launched in 2016 but is only now getting national attention, even bills itself as a “viable alternative” to one of the biggest social media sites.

“Funnily enough one of the reasons I started looking into the decentralized social media space in 2016, which ultimately led me to go on to create Mastodon, were rumors that Twitter, the platform I’d been a daily user of for years at that point, might get sold,” Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko said in a company statement.

The open-source nature of Mastodon differs markedly from Twitter in allowing users to contribute in small or large ways. Individuals also can make their own servers within Mastodon, much like another popular app, Discord.

In this way, it is not nearly as user-friendly as Twitter. Mastodon also does not work with an algorithm and shows its posts in chronological order.

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Mastodon also is crowdfunded through Patreon and thus is not beholden to advertisers as Twitter is.

Mastodon’s relatively hands-off approach to its site means that they cannot control who gets to use their code. Significant controversy arose when right-wing social media sites Gab and Truth Social used Mastodon’s code, which the company opposed but could not stop.

When hate speech-oriented servers pop up on Mastodon, according to Mr. Rochko, other popular servers banded together to block them, isolating them within their communities and servers.

“There is no way for Mastodon, the company, or anyone really — except the normal law enforcement procedures — to really go after anyone specifically running a Mastodon server.” Mr. Rochko told Time. “So on that end, it kind of turns out to be the ultimate free speech platform.”

Mastodon is available on web browsers and on iPhone and Android app stores.

• Vaughn Cockayne can be reached at vcockayne@washingtontimes.com.

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