Have asked this over on Twitter too, where I know some funders follow me, but: who are the funders and foundations ready to step up and invest in moderation and security support and (per several answers to my earlier post) pay people to make more inclusive, better spaces?

@rachelcoldicutt +1000 many of the communities who do this don’t have any legal entity, and don’t know how to ask for money, and consequently get ignored by philanthropy. I often sense skepticism and confusion about our work since our partners aren’t legible as nonprofits or social movement organizations.

@rachelcoldicutt This was my appeal to support institutions and people who do work on safety/moderation/inclusion at this point. I hope it's helpful!

@rachelcoldicutt I have long had a dream someday for the creation of an org for mutual aid, training, data science, and tech development for community moderation outside of commercial platform trust/safety.

If I had infinite time and weren't just trying to get a toehold for this kind of work in academia, I would totally be working to get something like this started. And I would support anyone who did!

@natematias @rachelcoldicutt For Fediverse stuff specifically, it would be awesome to have a non-profit org founded in managed hosting. It could provide centralized funding mechanisms, training, and trust & safety tools. You could structure it as a coop owned by the instances. It would be in a position to see spam patterns across instances.

@natematias @rachelcoldicutt Very thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing that!

@natematias there is definitely something that eg OSF/Ford/Mozilla could support here - even if just helping to pattern what such an org might look like and what it might need to run

@natematias is a reasonable model IMHO. Would be nice to see a solidarity payment tier for where £1/month is a barrier.

@rachelcoldicutt I've been hounding mark Cuban for years to build a competitor to Facebook/Twitter but alas, he never answers me.

@rachelcoldicutt Great question. Also, who should be hiring the moderators? Is it a single NGO that provides services to multiple communities?

@copiesofcopies Yeah, I dunno. It needs some proper diligence and many are better equipped to answer this - my hot take is: a distributed system, supported by a trust or a co-op, standards built in from the start. Wonder what @ubiquity75 thinks…

@rachelcoldicutt @ubiquity75 The first questions that come up for me are: what structure will funders be willing/able to back, and how (if at all) does the structure play into legal protections for moderators?

@copiesofcopies @ubiquity75 (with apologies for implicating Sarah in this) and across wch jurisdictions. I’m based in the UK, where there will [prob] soon be a new regulatory regime in place.

@rachelcoldicutt @copiesofcopies The first answer I have is, “We’re going to have/have to try many different approaches.”

@rachelcoldicutt seems to me that as instances proliferate, there will be a need for moderation-as-a-service, similar to email: instance blacklists, lists of recommended blocked accounts, automated bayesian moderation. all of those things should be a base layer enabling human moderators to be more effective.


I tend to think of the problem in two silos:

Your version is a really hard question. Where are the hooks that investors can tie onto to help the underlying ecosystem survive and grow ... other than pure altruism and charity?

The easier version is where can someone make money while helping users in the ecosystem? With an open architecture, the Fediverse may offer many opportunities for developers to build add on commercial tools and services. A few seem fairly obvious and inevitable:

* A SaaS that operates a "bolt on" site and/or user rating system.
* A SaaS that provides administration wizards and tools (and maybe fee-based white glove assistance) to instance admins.
* Pre-engineered instance server bundles for cloud operation. If Mastodon prospers, I expect that to show up in AWS and Azure quite soon.
* Enhanced subscription Mastodon clients with extra search and AI capabilities ... or other value-added services.

You get the idea.

These will generally be small businesses, but they might be quite stable and viable.

@vicuzumeri I’m going to say that “making money” is NOT a necessary precondition - who is willing to invest in fit-for-purpose social infrastructure and nurture models that might, eventually, wash their own face. I think some of the first, defining work needs to happen outside of market forces.



There are lots of precedents for that to happen. Apache Foundation. Linux, Hyperledger Foundation, etc.

If Mastodon Foundation were to aggressively solicit corporate sponsors, I bet they could bring in a LOT of money right now. Their 2021 annual report:

Based in Germany, I could see Siemens, SAP and Daimler ponying up real quick.

Then, there are a lot of deeply pissed off tech workers and executives who would love to stick one in Elon's eye.

Subsidiary foundations could be established in other countries.

@vicuzumeri @rachelcoldicutt

In Germany you would need a gGmbH corp. Similar, but not the same as a 501(c)(3) for tax advantages - which is what funders want also.
I run a 501(c)(3) that was founded to support journalism education. We could start a project to collect donations from funders who want to support server admins. We would channel the money. but would be better in partnership with others in similar position. A coalition of the willing.

@mojo @rachelcoldicutt

The hardest part of building support for the fediverse is likely to be its disaggregate nature. Who should lead? Who should handle the money? Who should decide how to spend it?

The problem isn’t that there are too few candidates, the problem is that there may be too many.

@rachelcoldicutt @vicuzumeri Making money, a for profit enterprise, maybe not but I think having some sort of business model for how costs are going to be covered medium/long term is crucial.
It would be easy to do something unsustainable in this area but I don't see how this will be attractive to funders who want to see measurable social outcomes for their £/$. Maybe as a learning exercise...

@rachelcoldicutt I do not see any reason to put any hope in “funders” to do it. Let us build our communities ourself.

@rachelcoldicutt Given the challenges of charities, NGOs and not-for-profits mediating the provision of services to marginalised communities, and the decisive infrastructural difference of "Mastodon" being its federated architecture, do you think it's necessarily the right idea to propose a shared (if not implicitly centralised) model for content moderation, or even moderation research or practice development, that is philanthropically funded?

@attentive I can't imagine that there would only be one model? There might be many models, some shared? There are also lots of types of non-profit org (including community businesses that reinvest profits into their purpose)

@rachelcoldicutt Yes, there wouldn't be a single model.

Instances here are characterised by the federated infrastructure and content distribution model of ActivityPub (among other things) …

I've seen the minimum need for content moderation here framed as: if "Mastodon" gets mass adoption, we need funding and organisational models for moderation at scale.

I'd reframe that as: if "Mastodon" doesn't make moderation more efficient and accountable, it's not a good technology for mass adoption.

@attentive but also, I don't see that federation is incompatible with eg opt-in best practice playbooks that multiple moderators contribute to and that helps admins deal with understanding legal liability in different territories, share specialist experience, etc.

@rachelcoldicutt Perhaps "compatibility" is a low bar. The hope as ever for the Internet would be for a maximal dialogue that produces maximal justice.

I feel caution about a funded working group to invent what that looks like, or central instrument(s) of any kind on which federation becomes contingent.

I'm sure you've looked around and observed many instances have detailed codes of conduct, and admins have their informal networks and channels.

@rachelcoldicutt While I agree with points made about leaving an "engineering mindset" behind, crucial questions of labour and resources here are shaped by ActivityPub's design.

For example, as POC have pointed out, the whiteness of the fediverse today means any "instance of colour" may be subject to unjustly asymmetric resource pressure, given targeting from racist actors and brigades on larger, poorly moderated instances.

@rachelcoldicutt This brings into view a question about solidarity and in the end, what we might accept as our own accountability for broader standards of conduct and content.

Put briefly, can the "fediverse" concretely enabled by implementations of ActivityPub allow to directly assist neighbouring communities, either with labour or resources, by doing more than defederating from malicious instances? If not, is this design adequate or one that should be adopted or adapted?

@rachelcoldicutt Excuse the long-winded replies, by the way, I was struggling to find a more succinct way to put all that, but I'm not wanting to give the impression of bombardment, and have unlisted my comments.

@attentive yes, solidarity models seem super important to cultivate - as funding/labour/effort etc (this asymmetry is exactly what I was trying to get at)

@rachelcoldicutt it seems to me that this is already baked in to mastodon. the server i'm logged in to regularly disaffiliates from servers that have problematic content or users, thus sparing me the need to see it or filter it myself.

as soon as we go around begging for money, there are always strings attached.

mastodon is and should be, a do-it-yourself operation.

@rachelcoldicutt It doesn't necessarily require financial backing, just trusted crowd-sourced blocklists. It already happens organically on the fediverse. Eg a user who spews hate speech is banned from one server, so they move to a more permissive server. However, their new server as a whole is defederated by other sensible servers because it has too much hate speech as a whole.

@rachelcoldicutt While I’m not a traditional funder/investor, I’m very interested in putting money towards these topics — via Patreon, Kickstarter, or Open Collective. My question is: who to support?

@rachelcoldicutt Trustlab might be worth a look. It’s a start up building a trust & safety platform

@rachelcoldicutt The low hanging fruit is in better tooling IMHO, Yes moderation work should be resourced, but first let's make it easier for users and admins to access the good quality moderation work that's already being done:


You touched on a weak spot of the fedi. Before the Twitter influx all that was established had big FOSS tech/project focus. On that front there's funding. For instance really helped Fediverse evolve quite a bit.

But thats all R&D funding. Tech work. Anything beyond tech project is super hard to organize in grassroots setting. Like open standards communities/ecoystem substrate.. failing

There's no funding of social aspects in socio-technical networks 🤷

The jurisdiction
@rachelcoldicutt brought up in will also be interesting.

Right now, moderators judge according to an instance's rules.

But for example, free speech is interpreted wider in the US than in Europe.

What if there are some legal cases?

@rachelcoldicutt I'm aware of a consultant offering GDPR templates for instance admins free of charge but with no legal guarantee.

@RyunoKi @smallcircles @rachelcoldicutt Re #GDPR there is also a #lemmy / #feddit discussion board that may offer useful pointers (in german language):

@smallcircles @rachelcoldicutt

Even the #openweb tech funding cores social damage due to the unthinking anti social agenda. There are some articles on #NGI and #NLnet funding on my blog use the sidebar hashtags to find if interested.

To sum up good and bad, need to do better.

Also #stupidindividualism is a clear and easy to see blocking on solving anything on this subject. This is evil when people have any understanding that they suffer.

@rachelcoldicutt Not sure if this post is tangentially relevant here: it's the Patreon page for Weirder Earth with some discussion of trying to make "to make our instance and the fediverse better for BIPoC." Patreon tends to be the standard model, I think.

@rachelcoldicutt Honestly, that sounds like a public sector task (for municipal instances).

Maybe you can convince your city to host one (incl. moderators).?

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