A brief Scuttlebutt anecdote

I've been experimenting with Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB), a protocol that powers a decentralized social network where posts are propagated peer-to-peer with no central server like Twitter or Facebook.

One of the things that's interesting about SSB is that, because it's decentralized, your news feed is built by fetching posts stored on peers' devices. This makes organic discovery of friends-of-friends high, because your device holds and displays the content of people you don't follow but are only a hop or two from someone you do.

But, more importantly, the act of blocking an account on SSB is public by default, with the action published to your feed just like a post. (You can also privately block someone, if you need to.) Blocking an account not only hides its posts from you, but also means you are no longer willing to be a peer that shares their posts to others in your social graph.

The other day an account showed up in my feed that was sharing anti-Ukrainian disinformation that originated from a Russian state-run publication. It wasn't immediately obvious, but it caught my attention enough to look into it. After confirming that, I blocked the feed. Within 24 hours I saw several other accounts do the same. In doing so, this person's ability to be seen by anyone in all our overlapping social graphs was effectively revoked, without requiring the often taxing work of a team of moderators needed to enforce similar protections on a centralized network.

I found that network effect to be very encouraging, as it feels like a glimmer of possibility for social networking options in the future that don't require great expense or algorithmic analysis to operate.

It's important to note that there are other ways that moderation happens with SSB, primarily via invite-only "pubs" (always-online peers) that have enforced codes of conduct. A topic for another day.

published 2022-04-08