BSKY, Mastodon and the Modern Internet

| #bsky | #internet | #mastodon |

Recently my brain spotted a pattern, a correlation of sorts, between what was happening between the rising Bluesky network and the established Mastodon.

Hrefna over on Hachyderm (a Mastodon community) wrote a brief but illuminating thread that touched on some of the reasons Mastodon users were up in arms over an in-progress link between Mastodon and Bluesky, called Bridgy Fed.

Mastodon runs on a connectivity protocol called ActivityPub. It’s a method of sharing posts, following people, and managing all of the big, complicated stuff that comes with such things. When users were up in arms about their content appearing on bsky without their consent, and that requiring an opt-out was effectively theft in advance, Hrefna made a very good point:

Opt-out is not “you haven’t consented,” opt-out is “we have a situation where there is generally consent and we are giving you the ability to _revoke_ that consent.”

I think this skirts around a broader point: the modern internet is made of a few enormous services and most people have forgotten how the internet works, if they ever knew at all.

Recent Events

I am a photographer. It’s what I do for work, it’s how I pay my bills. My model release has two components that are relevant to this conversation, one that points out I can’t control what happens to a model’s images once they’re on the internet, and the other says that I will charge a fee for deleting the model’s content if they ask me to.

The first point is obvious. Of course I can’t control who saves a copy, who draws a moustache on a person’s photo, etc.

The second point is a little more nuanced. It has happened only four times in my entire career, where a model wants their images deleted. Their reasons are their own, but my reasoning is simple: they have given me the authority to share and promote my business with their images. By deleting them, they’re taking away from me something that I value, and so they need to pay for it. Plus, it must be pointed out, deleting images is a fairly large job. I’ve got to go to every site I’ve ever posted on, check for images of that person, remember my login details, delete the images. Then check every harddrive, every old drive, every backup, every working directory. And then there’s blog posts, social media. And then, years later when I stumble on one I missed, I need to remember to delete that too. It’s a hassle, and so it comes with a cost.

No one has a problem with this.

But the fourth time it happened was just a month ago. And it stemmed from a model who was suddenly finding their photos advertised for posters on Amazon (they were unable to provide screenshots) which led them to DeviantArt, a site where I post more nudes than anywhere else because it’s one of the only places scary things like nipples are actually allowed.

And the model was upset about this. They didn’t like the comments, they didn’t realize their photos would appear on a site “that has no copyright protection” (what?) and, like, this is all in my model release, but OK. The model was, I think, in shock, and didn’t seem to be in a state of mind where discussion was possible, so I just removed all their images.

How the Internet Works

And this brings me to my point. A lot of people don’t understand, on any but the most superficial levels, what their content does when it’s posted. They don’t know where it’s stored, how it’s transmitted, where it can end up, who can see it, comment on it, share it, etc. They just don’t. The number of people every year posting notices to Facebook about their refusal to grant consent to share their content is proof of this.

And so they see a bridge to a service they don’t want anything to do with as an affront, a skeezy move by dodgy people, to share their public content in places not explicitly allowed by the poster. It’s theft.

But this is what’s happening already. This is what’s always happened. A lot of people just never considered what that actually meant.

I’ve had conversations with intelligent people where the distinction between server and client, and server software and server hardware, was impossible to convey. If that’s difficult, then surely the intricacies of linking different websites via federation protocols is something that a lot of people will also struggle with.

And this is where we are.

This stuff is conceptually very simple, but the details are fiendishly convoluted. It’s a giant tangled mess of edge cases and difficult decision making. Follow any developer of this stuff and watch as they agonize over every decision and then get lambasted by the public no matter what they do.

And In Conclusion…

You might be wondering why I’m bothering to post this.

I dunno. It’s just something that occurred to me and I wanted to write it down. Like most things, by the time I hit Post! the world will have moved on and, like my post about NFTs, it’s just pointless blather on the internet.

Which is the sort of content the internet’s always had.

[ Feb 16 2024 ]

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