The United Federation of Instances is a bad idea, and Free Radical will not participate.

The “UFoI” is an organization of fediverse instances making a compact: if an instance enters the compact, and they abide by the group’s Code of Ethics, then all members of the group promise not to disconnect from or block that instance. If one instance believes that another is violating that Code of Ethics, then they can present evidence to the elected board of the group. If the board agrees with the evidence, they may vote to remove the accused instance from the organization and the protection it offers. I understand why that sounds attractive to potential members, but I think joining a group like this is an awful idea.

First, I’d like to set aside my thoughts on the motives for this specific organization, whose tagline is “No more mobs with pitchforks!” In my time on the fediverse, that complaint usually comes from instances that were misbehaving and then groused when other instances stopped talking to them. Implicit in the complaint is that their right to be heard is greater than our right not to listen to them. I’m not convinced that instances that would want to join this particular organization would be the sorts of instances we’d want to hang out with in the first place.

That said, I think the premise is inherently unhelpful. In a Reddit thread about the group, one of the founders, Jeffrey Freeman, says it contrasts with “gossip based block lists”. At Free Radical, we’ve long used these “gossip based block lists” in the form of other users contacting our mods to warn us about instances hosting bad actors. It’s worked for us. It’s worked for our friendly neighboring instances who have similar ideas about what a bad actor is. It’s an emergent, organic process that gets the job done. And as I’ve shouted from the rooftops, users decide whether that’s working for them: if our moderation is too strict, or too lenient, then they’ll leave for instances that better match their preferences. That’s a powerful feedback mechanism.

Moderation decisions, and their consequences, affect individual instances and their users. Under no circumstances would I willingly tell one of the amazing people hanging out on my server that I can’t disconnect a wayward instance because that would violate a compact. If a group of people is harassing someone in our community, I’m going to block that group, and I’m not going to go through the hassle of attempting to “prove” to a central organization that the block is justified. That’s antithetical to the entire spirit of the fediverse.

Free Radical will not be joining the UFoI or any similar organization. I take our moderation duties seriously and will not outsource them to a central organization with a “one size fits all” policy. If I wanted that nonsense, I’d have stayed on Twitter.