Open, limitless federation and individualized moderation

Written by Lionir

Some people have thoughts about federation and some of that reached me. I have some too.

I’ll try to deconstruct the best good faith argument I can for open limitless federation. I don’t believe most people arguing for this kind of system are reaching these conclusions in the way presented here. It’s likely more emotional than rational - which is a valid way to think.

I believe that some people’s ideas of federation are founded in the ideas presented on this quote by EFF founder, John Perry Barlow in his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”:

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.


We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

These ideas are then extrapolated to conclude that there should not be any authority over the individual. As a result, people want what I’ll call “individualized moderation” and define as such:

A lack of centralized moderation through a form of authority. This lack introduces a greater need for the individual to filter people and ideas on their own terms.

Advocates of individualized moderation therefore want the ability to block people, communities and instances because they want to remove the need for a form of authority which executes moderation actions. This is opposed to the need to have greater control over what we are shown outside of what is generally expected from moderation policies.

I think the most common comment I see from these advocates can be summarized to this:

Why can one person decide what I can see? I want to see the full federation!

People advocating for individualized moderation will often argue that this is “apolitical” and that forms of authority are inherently bad because they are political.

Now, let’s deconstruct this.

First, this idea is inherently political:

  • It values the individuality over community
  • It values personal freedoms over collective freedoms
  • It values freedom of expression over community safety

This is an inherently a right libertarian idea.

Okay, it’s political, so what? you might say.

Well, in this case, this right libertarian idea, by design, does not try to use systems to correct social ills. As such, this value of personal freedoms over collective freedoms, it will privilege those with existing privileges in our societies and burden those who suffer from social ills.

By putting this burden on them in our online communities, minority voices leave. The community becomes less tolerant as it becomes less exposed to those who suffer from intolerance.

We fall into a vicious cycle where tolerance of those that are intolerant can no longer be stopped until only those that are intolerant can remain. We fall into the paradox of tolerance.

Then what? If that’s not good, how can we do better?

We need to value collective freedoms over individual freedoms. To protect collective freedoms, we need collective solutions. For collective solutions, we need authority to execute these solutions.

Couldn’t this also be used to privilege the few in control? Yes, this is why a universal authority should not exist. We need the ability to form authority that can represent its people. People are so different though, so we need more than one authority - we need sovereign authorities. Outside of cyberspace, people form things collectively from countries and political groups to simply friends.

It would be foolish to think that anyone could unite all of humanity under one group - it would go against all of human history and culture. Our systems in cyberspace need to conform to this reality.

This is why decentralized authority is important. Federated systems allow for decentralized and sovereign authorities. As a result, communities can form authorities to defend their collective freedoms. If these authorities fail, new ones need to form. This is the power of a federated network. It allows for this to happen naturally.

Let us decentralize, but do not let us individualize. Lest we forget those in need, let us organize. Let us federate.