notes on democracy for instances of the fediverse

Jan 11 post by anomaly 🌹

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.


benjamin melançon @mlncn at replied:

@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!

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 Draft Potential Governance and Operations Structure — Drutopia documentation

@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!

For the record, it was a pinned toot and i didn’t realize i was a month late to the party until completing every one of my eight replies…

Ugh, worse than that, there were dozens of replies to the post already, which Mastodon simply didn’t show me. Indeed, the replies visible at the posts URL — — and my replies — — seem to exist in parallel universes. (Update: From within Mastodon, logged in on, i can now see the replies when i click the status, but it took a couple seconds for them to load, so maybe that’s why i thought there were none, i hit the reply too soon. Also the reply counter when logged showed nothing and after i replied showed 1.)

Here’s a secret trick to at least show one’s own replies starting with the context of what one is replying to, add a # so the scroll starts at the top,