So, there's this concept of "implicit feudalism" in online communities. Essentially, the vast majority of online communities - from old-school forums, to facebook groups, to large platforms like Twitter and Facebook themselves, even to fediverse instances - they're all run as dictatorships by default. It's built into the software - you'll have a top admin who has full, unconstrained power, they might delegate mods who have some limited powers, and anyone else has to listen to what these dictators and lords tell them. We talk about "federating" here in the fediverse, but each individual community - as far as I'm aware of - is a little dictatorship. A federation of dictatorships is not a free society, anymore than the UN, an international body composed of "liberal democracies" and authoritarian regimes is truly democratic. We need a way to start governing online communities through actual forms of democracy.



@anomaly yes, this is so important for any movement or large cooperative of any kind, also!

One thing i've always felt the internet needs is a way to moderate communication without putting it in the control of any elite— the lowest overhead way of doing that is to have a random sample of people make the decision on each message, say 400 people deciding if a given message should go out to a group of two million.

@anomaly that's the numbers after looking up statistically significant sample sizes, i'd originally thought like 30 people being asked any given time, and maybe that would be enough for any given message; the idea isn't to have a valid poll but to have a way of sharing the work of decision-making that cannot and should not be delegated, the baseline of what any group knows about!

@anomaly It could also be done offline; in that case perhaps a more traditional variation of sortition would be more feasible, in which the people selected by lot are also given a longer-term leadership role, and the support and resources needed to carry out their role, in this case deciding what should be disseminated within the group (and what the group wants to make people outside the group aware of).

@anomaly another very different way to scale communication and decision-making in relatively non-hierarchical ways would be to form sub-groups of one to two dozen people; each group selects one person, subject to immediate recall, to represent them in a group of the same size, small enough for deliberation (say, 20) formed from 20 groups— doing this scales to the population of the world in less than ten levels, with power flowing from below.

@anomaly And then there's liquid democracy, which comes in various flavors. And there are structures such as sociocracy which are suited to people coming together voluntarily to get work done in the relatively small team sizes at which work almost always gets done, while still being connected to a larger group. Here's a take on that i drafted

@anomaly And more practically to your examples of getting rid of dictatorship in the governance of instance of the fediverse, the instance i'm on,, is run democratically using Loomio, as described in the group's wiki:

@anomaly And it's worth stating that even a selection of dictatorships, when there are truly open borders (and relatively low costs to leaving), does offer a form of freedom.

@anomaly But i agree with you nonetheless that we need to start governing online (and all) communities through forms of democracy.

And i feel the baseline for any group with freedom and fairness and the equality required for both is communication controlled by the group as a whole, which is why i will help build a communication tool in which the reach of messages is decided by (a random representative subset of) the group itself, for any group that will use it!

@anomaly And with a link to my recounting of a short sad story from my neighborhood, which ends with that moral and shows the need for democratic communication tools for even formally democratic organizations, in the real world as well as online, i'll give your mentions a break!

@mlncn I read your thread. There are some interesting ideas but I wonder how real money in the real world might affect - and corrupt - them.

One thing that is clear in popular social media is that famous people or powerful companies (say, newspapers) gain the largest number of followers. It is clear people are influenced before they join online communities.

Wouldn't this create already biased groups and it make little difference if they are run democratically or not?

@mlncn You would have to consider the power of advertising and the influence of corporate media as well. The news has a clear influence of people's voting choices so it is clear to me money could be used to heavily propagandise for the desired group decisions.

An example of that would be the UK Labour party which has been infiltrated by centrists for decades. When a left wing leader was elected thousands of people joined the Labour party. Their membership was over 500,000 ...

@mlncn ... But from the start of Corbyn's election there were smears and accusations of anti-semitism with media collusion (like Sanders in the US) and, as more recently discovered, people within the party leadership were working to make the party lose the elections.

If established power and wealth want something, they'll do everything to get it. I just wonder if all online groups could in infiltrated by entryists or influenced in their decision making in the same way.

@LydiaConwell all good points! And real work is done in small groups; when corrupted that's a problem. Two notes:

First, the media is the enemy; we must see that and collectively build a replacement machinery for news and ideas. Democratizing distribution helps us collaborate on that.

Second, making decisions by random sample (sortition) means infiltration or corruption has to target... everyone in the movement, or at least play catch-up after decision-makers are chosen.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!