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PressPad, an attempt to bring some class diversity to posh British journalism, is shutting down
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Aug. 3, 2023, 2:46 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   August 3, 2023

The BBC has set up an experimental Mastodon server that, for now, hosts a handful of BBC accounts: @BBCRD, @BBC5Live, @BBCRadio4, @BBC_News_Labs, @BBCTaster, and @Connected_Studio. The server — which won’t host outside user accounts — is a way for the British public broadcaster to dip its toes into decentralized social media, at least for the next six months. “The principles of the Fediverse, with an emphasis on local control, quality content, and social value, are far more aligned with our public purposes than those of avowedly commercial networks like Threads or Twitter,” the company said in a blog post.

BBC spokesman Richard Bell told me that so far, the accounts are “are sharing things that we’ve already shared on other social media sites on Mastodon as well, but that’s also part of what [we’ll] be looking to learn — what works well on Mastodon particularly.”

In its blog post, BBC R&D also talked about the challenges involved with teaching folks inside the BBC how Mastodon works — as well as thinking through moderation:

Explaining the federated model can be a challenge as people are much more familiar with the centralised model of ownership. We’ve had to answer questions like “Are we running our own social network?” (well, we’re kind of hosting a small section of a social network) and “Are we hosting a user’s content?” (well, we don’t allow users to create accounts or post from our server, but they can reply to our posts from their own servers, and then their posts will appear next to ours and then they might be stored on our server and it all gets quite complicated).

The latter question leads on to moderation. Although we will only host BBC accounts, there will be replies from other people to our posts. What is our responsibility for moderation here? When the BBC hosts comments on our own website, as on some of our news and sports stories, we moderate these according to our guidelines. Where we post on third-party social media platforms we will keep an eye on any replies and take appropriate action where necessary (such as reporting a comment to the third-party) but we also expect the third-party to have some centralised moderation in place. Because it is a decentralised service, there is no central Mastodon moderation team that we can point to, instead all Mastodon servers are responsible for their own moderation. Mastodon allows the administrators to add a content warning, remove posts, or even block all posts from another server, and many instances are effective in moderating troublesome content from their users. We think this is an acceptable risk and will apply the BBC’s social media moderation rules to any replies to our posts where we can.

You might be able to see from the above why we chose to make this a BBC-only server and not host user accounts.

As of Thursday, the BBC’s R&D Mastodon account had around 17,000 followers; BBC News Labs had around 11,000; and BBC Radio 4 had around 10,000. (In contrast, BBC Radio 4 has more than 535,000 followers on Twitter.)

In other Mastodon news that you might have ignored because Mastodon, Medium in March launched a Mastodon server that is only available to its paying members.

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