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Statement on Federated Communities

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Federation is the ability to link multiple sites into one big networks where they behave as one.

The specifics are difficult to explain, however if you look at a hashtag, it will be populated with posts from throughout the network, if you follow someone on another site, you will get their posts in your feed on the original site.

This means that someone can join a site with policies which align with them and talk to people on other sites. They also avoid concentrating power in the hands of one big company like Google, Microsoft or Amazon.

Issues arise however. Posts with unpleasant content can flood global feeds, spam can run rampant if uncontrolled, content which is legal in one country but not another, may flood feeds and have copies of that content replicated to other servers creating a substantial moderative burden and legal liability.

Some pieces of software have found ways to mitigate possible liability like blocking instances, sharing block lists or simply blocking the media on an instance. This is not entirely perfect, but it reduces the threat ratio and for a pure social media type network, this may even work.

For a single subject forum, in proposals like some have pushed to some forum software, it is a very bad idea. It creates significant liability where this is none, encourages people to use the software not for it's intended purpose, but to hook up with friends on other sites and puruse whatever communications and media they desire. All of this needs to be moderated and it easier to stray into problems than otherwise.

The forum effectively ends up being used as an elaborate proxy for other sites but with none of the benefits of one, rather than for it's intended goal which is fostering a community and it invites people to interject with standards which may not conform with your own community standards.

It may also bring in a great deal of drama from other instances or sites which no one wants to deal with and aid to spreading that.

Developing specialised moderation tools takes a certain amount of resources, resources which could be better spent on improving the community. It also leaves you at a greater risk of DDoS attacks as the mere act of federating exposes your IP Address to other sites.

Additionally, it poses questions of privacy, which instances have access to your private messages? The answer is usually all of them, if you're in a conversation with eight people on eight instances, this is eight admin teams who may be able to read those messages at any given moment.

A solution dangled for this problem is end-to-end encryption (E2EE), but ignoring the fact it's been banned in Australia, it creates a great amount of complexity for users and involves a significant amount of work.

For some use cases and for those with the resources and legal frameworks capable of handling it, federation may work, but I am not entirely sure it is a good solution for forums. Feel free to try to change my mind on this ^^