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Re: Minds.com


From: Valentino Giudice
Subject: Re: Minds.com
Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2023 04:23:41 +0200

   Hi, Ron.
   Minds attempts decentralization in a few different ways, including
   ActivityPub and Nostr. It also uses Matrix for messaging, so that users
   can talk to those that don't use Minds.
   Minds also attempted to use the Arweave Permaweb, but never clarified
   how it would benefit the user. It's like they were trying too hard to
   decentralize, without a clear design, in some sense.
   In the ActivityPub federated ecosystem, users typically depend on one
   server. In effect, from that point of view, they are not much better
   off than they would be picking one of several (identical) centralized
   platforms. The benefit, of course, is that they can communicate with
   each other, although they can only do so at the whim of the admins of
   both platforms.
   Nostr is better in this regard (although it doesn't have the same goals
   IMO). While it is not serverless, it allows users to be fully
   independent of any specific server (or "relay", in the Nostr
   terminology) and share their digital identity across multiple servers.
   Minds attempted decentralization with Nostr before ActivityPub, to my
   knowledge. Given how prone current Mastodon admins are to block other
   instances, to the detriment of users, I think Nostr is a lot more
   promising. I haven't checked how complete and compliant their
   ActivityPub integration is.
   Despite the simplicity of Nostr, Minds is not even fully compliant with
   NIP-01 (the mandatory portion of the protocol). From what I can tell,
   this is not due to lack of will, by them, but rather bad design
   decisions that they haven't fixed yet. Please,
   see: [1]https://gitlab.com/minds/infrastructure/nostr-relay/-/issues/10
   > Why would we want a centralized platform?
   Ideally we don't, which is why I hope Minds succeeds at fully
   decentralizing through Nostr. But centralized platforms are simpler
   conceptually for users which aren't technically skilled and they are
   often more feature complete. They are easier to use and to promote.
   > You can run your own instance with less restrictive rules.  That's
   one of the advantages of decentralization.
   Yes, indeed you can. In fact, you don't even need decentralization to
   do that, you just need a free-software social media platform, and the
   full stack of it. You can, but almost nobody does.
   In fact, platforms with rules this permissive are rare. Many claim to
   be, but are not. Elon Musk never made X a free speech platform and, for
   a short time, he even censored content about Mastodon and Nostr.
   Platforms like Gab and the like are far from content-neutral and
   actually censor content they do not like, regardless of their empty
   claims. You can find both of them lying about it
   here: [2]https://archive.ph/dGCjU
   A beautiful example everybody here is familiar with is FreeNode, when
   it endorsed free speech, then went on to ban everyone mentioning
   LiberaChat, including even the FSF itself. That's when the FSF moved to
   LiberaChat, which was the right choice.
   Several other platforms apparently for freedom of expression ban, for
   example, nudity or legal pornography. While they don't all take sides
   as clearly as Gab does, it's my guess that they do so to please
   conservatives. Minds, to be clear, does require users to tag certain
   kinds of content (if you don't, you are not banned, but your whole
   account gets tagged), but it does not remove it.
   Reddit used to be rather permissive, and it surely was much closer to
   being a free speech platform at the time of Aaron Swartz. But Aaron has
   no influence on Reddit now, and it has progressively deteriorated in
   this regard.
   In fact, other than Minds, I am not aware, at this time, of any
   platform, free or non-free (as in "free software"), centralized or
   decentralized, which:
   - Offers functionalities comparable to those of mainstream platforms
   such as Facebook or X; and
   - Has extremely liberal policies; and
   - Isn't extremely small or unreliable.
   I should note that Minds, to the extent to which it does moderate, it
   has policies based on the Santa Clara Principles, which the EFF is an
   author of.
   > it also seems to have some cryptocurrency nonsense built in:
   <[3]https://www.minds.com/token>.
   Minds uses both the Ethereum blockchain and Bitcoin (both of which run
   on free software), neither of which is mandatory to use the platform.
   Personally, I hold no Minds token and I don't use either blockchain. I
   don't know blockchain technology enough to evaluate how nonsensical
   this specific use case is.
   > That page also indicates that it has "premium features" and
   advertising.
   Yes, it does. I think the level of freedom it provides should be
   evaluated from the point of view of a non-paying user.
   Indeed, Minds is not a non-profit and while the software is free as in
   free-speech part of the service is paid.
   I don't see the presence of these features as necessarily problematic.
   > Apart from the non-free CAPTCHA,
   I should mention that I do think that using FriendlyCaptcha is an
   issue, in any case.
   I'd like to thank Michael once again for pointing it out.
   However, unlike other shortcomings of Minds, I think it's easily
   fixable. Conceptually the basic idea of FriendlyCaptcha is simple and
   implementing a completely free alternative, without even needing to
   rely on the free portion of what they have built, is possible.
   So far the FSF uses X, which is based on proprietary software, has
   arbitrary restrictions and has a leadership which has shown hypocrisy.
   It also uses GNUSocial (which almost nobody else does) and Mastodon.
   I'm not against Mastodon, but I think it has (and ActivityPub has)
   shortcomings and that using multiple platforms is preferable.

References

   1. https://gitlab.com/minds/infrastructure/nostr-relay/-/issues/10
   2. https://archive.ph/dGCjU
   3. https://www.minds.com/token

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