Fediverse is a loose term for a network of social network servers which form an alternative to centralized social network platforms like Twitter. Fediverse servers use the open ActivityPub standard to share content users on individual servers between the servers in the network. A variety of software such as Mastodon and Pleroma can be used to run Fediverse servers. Individual servers have widely different communities, policies and features. Some have draconian censorship-policies and others have a clear pro free speech stance.
The Fediverse Network
The "Fediverse" is a network of social media style services who are, in theory, capable to interacting with each other. Services using the Mastodon social media software have a "Federeated" timeline as one of their core features. That timeline shows all posts from all the servers that Mastodon instance is interacting with which is typically not all the servers in the fediverse network. The front page of servers running Mastodon will, as a default, falsely advertise:
"With an account on $servername you'll be able to follow people on any Mastodon server and beyond."
A scarily large majority of the fediverse servers do not only censor local users, they also censor entire servers for reasons that are, in many cases, quite strange. A server which has blacklisted another server will not just omit the posts from the blacklisted server in the Federeated timeline, a blacklist entry will also prevent users from following users on the blacklisted server. That is kind of silly from a practical perspective. A user on a server which has blacklisted another server can go to that servers web page and see all the posts but can't subscribe to the users there even though all the data is publicly available.
How many servers a fediverse instance is blocking and why those servers are blocked is in most cases not clearly stated anywhere. It is therefore hard to know if people using other servers will be able to follow you and see posts you make on the server you are using.
Public Fediverse Servers
|url||policy||software||focus||primary language||open for signups|
|fedi.z0ne.moe||uncensored||Pleroma||friendly server with focus on drawing(s)||English||Yes|
|freespeechextremist.com||uncensored||Pleroma||Extreme Free Speech||English||Yes|
|gab.com||uncensored||Own Mastodon fork||Anime, technology, free speech||English||Yes|
|juche.town||uncensored||Pleroma||some kind of town||English||Yes|
|jpop.club||Pleroma||Japanese pop music||English / Japanese||no||Yes!!|
|kawen.space||unknown||Pleroma||The Pillow Fort of Pleroma Instances. Very pink. Looks comfy.||English||Yes|
|liberdon.com||uncensored||Mastodon||For libertarians, ancaps, anarchists, etc||English||Yes|
|mastodon.cloud||Mastodon||heavily censored||Mostly bots re-posting from rags like the New York Times||English||Yes|
|mastodon.social||heavily censored||Mastodon||白左 báizuǒ discussing how everything is offensive||English||Invite only|
|mastodon.xyz||somewhat censored||Mastodon||General talk||English||No|
|mstdn.io||uncensored||Mastodon||General talk. Many tech related posts. Comfortable.||English||Yes|
|pl.smuglo.li||uncensored||Pleroma||Smug content. NOT work safe||English||Yes|
|snabelen.no||heavily censored||Mastodon||Norwegian language content. Mostly harmless posts about farming||Norweigan||Yes|
|todon.nl||heavily censored||Mastodon||聖母婊 hangout||English||Yes|
|theres.life||unknown||Mastodon||God and Jesus Christ||English||Yes|
The "censored" servers are censoring more than posts on their own platform, they are also censoring everything posted on other servers in in realty not very interconnected "fediverse". Some, like todon.nl, have administrators who go out of their way to dox and research people's private life and ban people for having some post in some old blog or something.
The above list is in no way complete. fediverse.network has a much larger list of fediverse servers which includes the server software used, the number of users and the number of peers the servers are federating with.
Fedilab is a good choice if you are looking for a Android application to use with fediverse servers running Mastodon or Pleroma.
Fedilab does cost money in the Google Play store. It is available for free in the free software F-Droid app-store: https://f-droid.org/en/packages/fr.gouv.etalab.mastodon/
The developers of the mobile software Tootdon decided to shut it down in July 2019 when they realized that a large amount of users were using this application to by-pass the built-in censorship in other mobile Masterdon client applications.
The mobile phone application Tusky for accessing the Mastodon network has censorship built into the application. Some ActivityPub-compatible instances can simply not be used by the Tusky mobile application due to it's built-in blacklist.
Tusky's "Community Manger" Marie Axelsson claimed that "This is not censorship, but rather a choice by this house who will facilitate our service to" in a commit June 2019.
A built-in blacklist is of course censorship. Someone trying to decide what you can and can't see and read for you is the very definition of censorship. It is also worth considering if an app is the service it's users are interested in or if it's like a web browser used to access services on the Internet. Other comparisons to web browsers are worth thinking about: There are currently no web browsers who will go "you can't have that domain because we don't like the opinions shared on that one". And that's a good thing.
- It is impossible to follow anyone on the vast majority of openPub compatible servers from this Mastodon instance. It is hard to say if they are censoring a really high number of other servers or if there is something plain broken with the software or the server they are using. Regardless, their promise of "you'll be able to follow people on any Mastodon server and beyond" is false; you will be able to follow people on that server and two or three others.
- The mstdn.io instances administrator appears to be constantly harassed because he does not want to censor gab.com
- todon.nl's censorship goes beyond their own website. the administrator actively researches users and ban them for writing things elsewhere