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Update content/posts/2019-05-16_Covenant.md

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---
title: "Mastodon Server Covenant"
title: "Introduction of the Mastodon Server Covenant"
subtitle: "Changes to the joinmastodon.org server picker"
description: "To provide a safer experience to new Mastodon users, we are changing the joinmastodon.org server picker and introducing some new requirements"
draft: true
author: gargron
date: 2019-05-16
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categories:
- Op-Ed
---
Previously, joinmastodon.org was pulling the list of servers available for sign up from a 3rd party provider called instances.social, the very first directory of Mastodon servers. When Mastodon was first released to the public, it didn't have a homepage at all, so instances.social predates joinmastodon.org. It was a natural choice as a source of data when I set out to create a homepage because it already had so much of it.
Although Mastodon has no central authority, we as a project still want to provide a safer experience than found on Twitter or Reddit. One of the things that gave impetus to the creation of Mastodon was a lack of moderation on Twitter against hate groups. The "no nazis" rule of the original mastodon.social server not only continues to serve as a major attraction of the project, but has also been adopted in the majority of subsequently founded communities as well.
However, as it was a 3rd party and semi-automated service, the one thing that was not possible from my side was quality control of the presented servers. Anyone could submit one and it would eventually show up.
We thought long and hard about how to best provide people new to Mastodon a safe and friendly experience without compromising the federated and free nature of the project. Thus, we are proud to announce the creation of the **Mastodon Server Covenant**. By highlighting those communities that are high quality and best align with our values, we hope to foster a friendly and better moderated online space. Any server that we link to from joinmastodon.org commits to **actively moderating against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia**. Additionally, servers listed on joinmastodon.org are those that have committed to having daily backups, more than one person with emergency access ("bus factor") and promise to give people a 3 month warning in case of potential closure.
One of the things that gave an impetus to the creation of Mastodon was a lack of moderation on Twitter against hate groups. The "no nazis" rule of the original mastodon.social server (which then spread to the majority of all subsequently founded servers) continuously serves as a major attraction to the network.
While there have always been server listings on joinmastodon.org, this is a break from our previous practice of listing servers. Before the Server Covenant we pulled a list of servers from a 3rd party provider called instances.social. However, instances.social was a 3rd and automated service. The one thing that it could not do was any kind of quality control as it simply listed every instance submitted--regardless of stability or their code of conduct. As Mastodon has grown it has become increasingly clear that simply listing every possible server was not in our interest as a project, nor was it in the interest in the majority of the communities running Mastodon.
But that's the thing, isn't it--since Mastodon is free software, with no central authority, communities decide on their own rules. So how could we as a project, above the individual server level, promise to be safer than Twitter and Reddit?
We want people's experience with the Mastodon to be safe and consistent and we believe in highlighting those communities that best embody our values. Mastodon is released as free software and that is where our obligations of neutrality end. We do not believe that moderation is a crime, and we do not have to support or promote those who would choose to use Mastodon to spread intolerance and hate.
What we *can* do, is choose who and what to promote from our own pages. Ensure that people who stumble on joinmastodon.org are directed to high-quality servers that align with our values. Herewith I announce the **Mastodon Server Covenant**. Any server that we link to from joinmastodon.org commits to **actively moderating against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia**.
There are actually a few more items in the covenant, but more of a technical nature. To give users more confidence in the server they choose to sign up on, the servers commit to having daily backups, more than one person with emergency access ("bus factor") and promise to give people a 3 months warning in case of a potential closure. Those are pretty basic requirements for a public service.
Now, there will always be people who will read this and claim censorship. That Mastodon must not take a political side. That the free marketplace of ideas will sort everything out. That is a very American view on things, and Mastodon is not American. Mastodon is released as free software, and that is enough, that is where our obligations of neutrality end. We don't have to support and promote those who choose to use it to spread intolerance.
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For those interested in learning more, or learning about including their community in the Mastodon Server Covenant, can find out more [here](https://joinmastodon.org/covenant).
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