No, Fediblock Isn’t Better Than The UFOI

The UFOI has been the subject of hot debate across the Fediverse. Largely fueled in response to a successful disinformation campaign by a Nazi, it’s torn the Fediverse apart into two sides, as it has positioned itself directly against Fediblock, since they ended up supporting the disinformation campaign themselves. But, as someone who’s been on the Fediverse for years, many of the complaints surrounding UFOI seem a bit humorous and ironic, considering that they largely apply to Fediblock as well, despite coming from their supporters.

To be fair, I’m not in general a big fan of instance blocks, especially on the admin level, although I certainly think that family-friendly “SFW” instances are likely needed for the sake of mass appeal, and even I’ve muted some instances if I’ve been targeted by their users or haven’t found any good apples there. And while I have (and still do) support native functionality in Mastodon and other softwares to subscribe to blocklists, I’ve always thought that something like Fediblock would be better as a database of potentially unsavory instances, rather than a blocklist to subscribe to. It doesn’t serve that purpose well, though, since it’s filled with dirty data; tons of instances there just don’t have much explanation as to why they’re there, and of the ones that do, even fewer of those have citations and proof backing up that description. The UFOI seeks to change this, with a more detail-oriented, rigorous and balanced investigation process before adding an instance to their recommended blocklist.

Many oppose this approach. Why? Well, it’s somewhat hard to tell. Some have stated that elitism is a primary point of concern, which is an odd claim considering that instances can be included in the Fediblock list for merely not adhering to the Fediblock list. That cry sort of falls on deaf ears when it comes from people who view themselves and morally superior to people outside of their “in” group in the first place. Others have accused the creator of the project, freemo, of being a “bad actor” on the Fediverse, another ironic claim since that accusation is based on disinformation spread by a Nazi. Still others, myself included, are also wondering how the UFOI can handle moderation if a quick action is necessary, yet not all members are available to perform the moderation process (i.e. an instance is spreading child pornography, putting all instances that federate with it in legal jeopardy).

The greatest threat that the UFOI poses is actually one that has already plagued Fediblock: corruption and being co-opted by bad-faith actors. Fediblock is largely run by progressives, but a Nazi manipulated them into blocking a harmless instance, QOTO, for fun. The UFOI could also be infiltrated by bad-faith actors, who could transform the moderation process into something equally unfair as Fediblock’s standards for inclusion on the blocklist. We have already seen this with the admin of Stop Voring Me joining the UFOI with the intent of leaking information regarding it, and attempting to slander freemo with that information (although that didn’t end up being particularly effective since he didn’t have much to say). The potential for corruption will always be the greatest weakness of any organization, and while the UFOI has certainly gotten off to a promising start, and seems like something worth joining for anyone planning to run a family-friendly “SFW” platform, it’d certainly be worth keeping an eye out for bad actors in the organization once the member list becomes public, and making sure that they abide by the standards they’ve currently set for themselves.

However, even this threat has been minimized as part of its inherent design. I reached out to freemo regarding this concern, and he stated that the UFOI has contingency plans to prevent this from happening. The current structure of the organization allows for members to be voted one at a time–no flooding of bad faith actors is possible. Its structure for changing the bylaws also require a two-thirds majority, making it difficult for rogue members to co-opt the project, provided of course that the leaders are vigilant in examining the rules prior to voting on them. Furthermore, in the case that bad faith actors do happen to co-opt the UFOI, the system is designed as a framework, meaning others can start their own groups. “The intent isn’t to be the one and only federation”, he stated. “Ideally different groups, perhaps with different ideas on the code of ethics, will form other federations as well. Federations can then choose to agree to federate or not or be neutral.”

With this in mind, it sounds like not only will the UFOI resistant to corruption, but the framework it is built around can be adopted by other groups, even including Fediblock themselves. In the end, the UFOI solves many of the problems plaguing Fediblock: susceptibility to corruption, low moderation standards, etc., with very few noticeable downsides in comparison, and considering the swath of new users and admins who will need a higher quality of moderation and support than the Fediblock community is able to provide, UFOI seems to be the primary viable option for those running instances who are seeking to moderate effectively, fairly, and in a way that protects their users without compromising interconnection throughout the Fediverse network.