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“Disable replies” feature #8565

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nclm opened this Issue Sep 2, 2018 · 124 comments

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nclm commented Sep 2, 2018

Most blogging systems and some social networks like Dribbble (possibly Instagram?) have a “disable comments/replies” feature. I wonder if it could be of use in Mastodon?

Adding a “Disable replies” checkbox in the privacy controls when posting a message would remove the reply icon (and possible other related UI) to the toot once it is posted. It won’t prevent the person to be contacted about the toot, but will not make it a one-click affair any more and might be an explicit way to dissuade potential comments about it.

If someone is posting something personal/controversial/etc in order shoutout/vent/etc about without the aim of starting a conversation, it could be useful.

  • I searched or browsed the repo’s other issues to ensure this is not a duplicate.
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Cassolotl commented Sep 2, 2018

I'd be curious to hear from the thumbs-down people why they feel this is a bad idea!

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codesections commented Sep 2, 2018

I strongly support this suggestion.

One additional suggestion: Could we have privacy settings for replies? In my ideal world, users could set three settings:

  • Public (the current setting—anyone can reply)
  • Follower only
  • No replies

This would let someone receive some replies, but still retain some control over the number (especially if combined with approving follows).

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codesections commented Sep 2, 2018

I think this is a very positive suggestion in part because it would reinforce something I like a lot about Mastodon's culture: It is very welcoming to strangers joining in to a conversation (and making new Internet friends).

In contrast, Twitter has a strong culture of "what are these randos doing in my mentions?". That culture seems fairly toxic—not only does it explicitly push people away from some conversations, it also makes people who don't want to annoy anyone significantly more reluctant to join in conversations—even when their contributions would be welcome. I'd very much like to see Mastodon avoid this same dynamic.

Why do I think this feature would help avoid the dynamic? Wouldn't it just give people more tools to keep strangers out of their mentions?

No. What this feature would do is allow users to enforce something with technology instead of social pressure. The result of implementing this feature would be that people who don't set No Replies are explicitly welcoming replies—if you see a post that allows replies, you can be certain that the original tooter welcomes those replies. In contrast, right now or on Twitter, users have to guess about whether their reply would be welcome.

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Cassolotl commented Sep 2, 2018

I used to get a lot of unsolicited advice/criticism etc. in my mentions on Mastodon until I locked my account, way worse than on Twitter, so yeah - I think giving people the tools to make their lives easier and reduce the work involved in just posting something a bit controversial would be extremely helpful.

Mastodon-the-project talks a lot about anti-abuse features and curating a safe environment for yourself and whatnot, and we have a lot of tools now that make communication start with consent. I think this feature would be in line with that, giving people a tool to withdraw consent to respond.

I think for me I wouldn't need such granular control for the don't-@-me. If I wanted only my followers to be able to reply, I would probably set the post to followers-only anyway. But that's me!

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

@codesections I was wondering a lot about reply "reach" (dislike the word "privacy" here) of the replies. I really miss replies on the public timelines - this is what I like on Pleroma that those get displayed there. I think that "no public timeline" could be the default setting for a reply if most people are concerned.
Having said that, I am not always sure if my reply to the existing thread is really welcome.

@Cassolotl thanks for calling me out, I'll consider that. For now I believe the emoji is quite an appropriate reaction.

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

@codesections one thing that struck me once I re-read my reply. I think it is a pretty common case when two people are engaged in the exchange about something and not necessarily want to have somebody else joining in. How could this be solved (apart from switching to DMs of course)?

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rysiekpl commented Sep 2, 2018

I see why it's needed but I am just a tad concerned it could be used for dogpiling. Scenario:

  1. Person A publishes a toot that is not popular with a particular crowd
  2. people from the particular crowd start @-mentioning Person A in their toots, attacking them, but disabling replies on these toots, making it harder for the person to respond.

I still like the idea, so perhaps two potential ideas for a solution here:

  1. make it impossible to disable replies on a toot that contains any @-mentions; or
  2. if a toot has @-mentions, "disable replies" does not disable the replies from people who are @-mentioned in it.

I think I like 2. better here, since it would also enable the "public, but limited conversation" functionality (i.e. having a public conversation but with only select parties, as opposed to using DMs for that).

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codesections commented Sep 2, 2018

@rysiekpl, I really like your suggestion 2. I hadn't considered that threat, but you spotted it and came up with a great solution.

And that fits in well with how DMs currently work—anyone @ mentioned in a DM is included in the DM. So I think this would fit well with existing UX conventions.

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

@rysiekpl but still even if solution 1 or 2 is implemented, people can still @ Person A ... (threat scenario 2), or am I missing something?

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Cassolotl commented Sep 2, 2018

@saper Like any abuse-reducing move, there are ways to circumvent it that take a little more effort. Like how we can't quote-toot, but we can take screenshots of toots in order to draw negative attention to them. I remember when people used "but a bad actor could refuse to honour delete requests" as a reason to not have a "delete toot" option. Sure, abusers will find a way to abuse, but making abusers have to work harder is still a good idea. Any barrier to abuse that has no downsides for good people is a good thing!

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rysiekpl commented Sep 2, 2018

@saper these were not two threat scenarios, this was a single scenario with two steps. And both solutions I propose solve it, since there is no way to dogpile on Person A by @-mentioning them but disabling replies (thus not giving them a chance to respond).

And that fits in well with how DMs currently work—anyone @ mentioned in a DM is included in the DM. So I think this would fit well with existing UX conventions.

@codesections exactly.

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

ah, now I got it @rysiekpl - quite clever :)

Having said that I don't like this feature since this, again, creates artificial barriers in the conversation on the site.

I was thinking about something similar to this issue - to add an expiration date (say a week by default), after which it is no longer possible to respond or to boost the message. It could be useful to prevent spreading of messages that have only limited temporal importance and making sure old requests for help do not get boosted around forever, creating chain toots.

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thebaer commented Sep 2, 2018

Chiming in to say that besides liking this feature, I'd look forward to the Mastodon UI reflecting other AP platforms' choice in what they do with replies. For example, you can disable comments on PeerTube videos, and Write.as accepts no comments by default. Having some way for other platforms to set that preference on a per-post or per-user basis, and a visual indication of it in Mastodon, would be great.

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rysiekpl commented Sep 2, 2018

Having said that I don't like this feature since this, again, creates artificial barriers in the conversation on the site.

I really don't feel it does, @saper. It's as if you said DMs create artificial barriers in the conversation on the site. In fact, DMs create even stronger barriers! But they're useful and needed. So is this feature.

Most people will not use it for most things. But when it's needed it will be there.

Question is how to express this correctly in the UI/UX, but this is something that can be worked out, obviously.

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

@rysiekpl You are right of course, but I am that kind of person who does not understand one-way channels on Telegram, always looking for a reply button there. Internet is a read-write medium to me :)

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kyefox commented Sep 2, 2018

Strong agree. I would like to have a way to make this default, at least for myself. I know, for example, when I toot about some annoyance/opinion with technology, I'll be bombarded with unsolicited advice/criticism that is one of:

  • Irrelevant
  • Missing the point
  • Assuming too much (usually that they understand what I'm trying to do better than I do, which they usually don't)

500 characters is just not enough room to expand on the whole problem space I'm working with, so it's necessarily insufficient for seeking advice even if that's what I'm doing.

I could just avoid the whole block/mute dance and disable replies on the majority of toots where I'm really not looking for a response in that medium.

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matildepark commented Sep 2, 2018

Strong disagree. This bolts on strongly counter-intuitive features, in direct contradiction to the product’s strengths, because some users don’t understand what the product is for.

The Mastodon front end facilitates conversation, not broadcast.

In addition I’m unsure how you could enforce this outside of the Mastodon front-end itself. The entire setup is based on privacy and selective conversation. If users want to avoid most replies, there are tools to cultivate your conversation partners better. But this hypothetical feature introduces a ton of problems from a UX perspective and is the wrong solution to a user problem.

I think the tools are in place as it is; we can simply highlight their efficient use better.

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Madeorsk commented Sep 2, 2018

What's the point of disabling social features of a social network?

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kyefox commented Sep 2, 2018

Different people seem to have different ideas of what Mastodon is for, and none of them are alone. It's not as clear to me as it is to some that Mastodon has a single set of things it's for.

For me, it's broadcast-default like microblogs were originally made for, before Twitter twisted it into an impression-focused machine to please advertisers.

For others, it's conversation-default. Neither is wrong, but they are incompatible.

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Cassolotl commented Sep 2, 2018

What's the point of disabling social features of a social network?

A whole bunch of social features have been removed to discourage harassment, dogpiling, etc. Like, we don't have full text search, we don't have quote-toots, we don't have replies show up in the public timelines any more, etc.

Why would someone want to turn off replies/comments on any platform? It's a common feature on social networks and blogging platforms, that people use for various reasons, a lot of them outlined in the comments of this issue.

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

This also has disadvantages: unjust statements go just unchallenged and left "as-is". Some people just vent out but they should be aware they do it publicly.

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Cassolotl commented Sep 2, 2018

Any barrier to abuse that has no downsides for good people is a good thing!

This also has disadvantages: unjust statements go just unchallenged and left "as-is".

If it's code-of-conduct-breaking, that kind of stuff can be reported. But if it's "unjust" people still have a right to withdraw consent for replies, no? The downsides (some people say some bad things and get blocked and if it's bad enough they'll get reported) don't outweigh the upsides (lots of people who are sick of speaking about their experiences/problems and getting trash in their mentions can save themselves a lot of work and anguish).

I get the feeling that you are approaching this from a very different perspective, because unsolicited awfulness is a very common experience for me, and to me it is an easy choice. Do you not get a lot of annoying responses when you talk about stuff that's important to you, or if you do, do you find it super easy to deal with them?

Edit: What I'm trying to say is, I think the good that could be done by introducing this feature would far outweigh any bad, but I am coming from the perspective of being a person who has to work quite hard to reduce the quantity of unsolicited 'splaining, criticism, advice, abusive comments, etc. So when someone who doesn't need the feature can simply ignore it, and people subject to a lot of that crap (especially marginalised people) could benefit from it a lot, and Mastodon claims to be a software that gives marginalised groups ways to reclaim their power and keep themselves safe, it seems like a very easy decision to introduce a beneficial change that would give a lot of people some peace of mind.

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

I am sorry, I don't think the admins and code of conduct should be invoked every time "someone is wrong on the Internet".

Yes, I am that kind of person that responds to random messages on the timeline. Sometimes it is greeting new people, sometimes some discussions going on. I seek actively engagement. I guess my usage is totally different than yours (I thought you have left the network...).

I must say my signal-to-noise ratio is very high on Mastodon. I follow some people who annoy me with their opinions to challenge my point of view and I respond to them very carefully. I might have even respectfully responded once or twice to the "do not @ me" messages, since that was a right thing to do.

The thing is, how those two radically different visions can be combined on one network. There are some platforms (Wikipedia, for one) which have extreme ability to create communities with people of radically different worldviews to work together on one goal with relatively minimal friction. They don't do it by cutting out features; just people have common topic/issue to work on it and present different views.

I don't think that one-sided unchallenged venting off contributes to general health of the community.

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Cassolotl commented Sep 2, 2018

I don't think the admins and code of conduct should be invoked every time "someone is wrong on the Internet".

If "someone is wrong on the internet" then the world doesn't end if you can't reply, though!

I thought you have left the network...

I did leave for a couple of months, and I appreciated the break. It gave me time to think things over, and while I was mulling I thought of some ways to reduce the negativity I kept getting, and I'm giving it another try. I'm gradually making things better for myself on Mastodon, and it might still not work out but I'm at least going to give it a try!

I follow some people who annoy me with their opinions to challenge my point of view and I respond to them very carefully. ... The thing is, how those two radically different visions can be combined on one network.

Well, I'd say, don't follow people if they regularly post with don't-@-me if that frustrates you. And if you don't want to use the don't-@-me setting and you get replies from people who annoy you, what I would do is just mute them or block them. I think all of that can happily co-exist if you give people the right tools.

There are some platforms (Wikipedia, for one) which have extreme ability to create communities with people of radically different worldviews to work together on one goal with relatively minimal friction.

It's interesting that you bring up Wikipedia as an example, I had to stop editing there too when someone kept undoing my perfectly valid edits and the justice system in place there basically ignored me... :P

Wikipedia is a great example of a site that has very little "friction" and the users themselves deal with rule-breakers. If we're aiming for that, we too might end up with a userbase that's 84% male and has a serious sexism problem...

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zcdunn commented Sep 2, 2018

This is a federation issue therefore it should be handled by ActivityPub, not Mastodon. And based on this comment,

#8565 (comment)

other AP platforms already have this feature so it makes sense for it to be standardized.

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codesections commented Sep 2, 2018

Strong agree … [I dislike that] when I toot about some annoyance/opinion with technology, I'll be bombarded with unsolicited advice/criticism. … For me, [Mastodon is a] broadcast-default [medium]

Strong disagree. … The Mastodon front end facilitates conversation, not broadcast.

I want to put these two comments next to each other to highlight something: Right now, there are some people who use Mastodon for broadcast, and are annoyed by "random" users "butting in" with unsolicited advice/criticism. There are other people who use Mastodon to start conversations with strangers, and who welcome the ability to have new people join in.

I don't think that either of those approaches are right or wrong (disclaimer: I'm in the second group). But I think they're (frequently) incompatible.

Even worse, as an outsider, it can be very difficult to know which group someone else is in. It's very easy to accidentally view someone as starting a conversation when they just wanted to broadcast—which leads to hurt feelings. It's just as easy to mistakenly view someone as broadcasting when they wanted to start a conversation—which leads to missed opportunities for human connection.

This feature would neatly solve both of those problems. If people want to broadcast, then they can; if people want to start a conversation, they can do that too. And all the rest of us can know what someone wants just by checking their toot settings (and without having to guess).

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

@zcdunn is this a part of a protocol or just what I call "client convention" (the way a client interprets incoming data) ? The spec seems to be pretty vague: https://www.w3.org/TR/activitystreams-vocabulary/#audienceTargeting

Also:

Responses to questions are expressed as Objects containing an inReplyto property referencing the Question.

I think there is nothing on the protocol level that prevents to set inReplyTo property by the client that does not know about the "no replies please" indicator.

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saper commented Sep 2, 2018

@codesections That's very insightful thanks! Sometimes I wonder what a broadcast mode really is. It reminds me of some corporate Twitter accounts. I think I have some issue with dealing with people who want to take air time but refuse to listen.

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Cassolotl commented Sep 2, 2018

Ahh yeah, corporate Twitter accounts! I think I'd probably hate them less if it wasn't possible to @ them at all - there would be no pretence that anyone might listen or reply...

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kyefox commented Sep 2, 2018

@saper

I think I have some issue with dealing with people who want to take air time but refuse to listen.

This is kind of bizarre to read. What gives you the impression that someone's refusing to listen when they broadcast? Even the things we get the word broadcast from have mechanisms for feedback! But that doesn't mean people responding have to sit there in the booth with me. I don't understand where you're coming from.

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codesections commented Sep 5, 2018

@lawremipsum I think this is an unfortunately black-and-white way of looking at a fairly nuanced issue. I respect you a lot from your other posts, so I think that it's worth digging in to why I believe you're mistaken here.

You talk about how both "proposals [would] put more control in the hands of status authors" but both are opposed by people who focus on "the interest of the audience". I agree—I think you've correctly identified the trade off under debate.

However, you seem to suggest that we should always side with the status authors over the audience, and I think that's far too black and white. In my view, we should weigh the each issue separately and decide—on the merits of the particular issue—which set of interests should be prioritized. To take a (hopefully uncontroversial) example: many status authors would like to be able to quote-toot, but Eugen has determined that quote-tooting leads to bad effects on the audience—specifically, it encourages the sort of dunking-for-popularity dynamic that makes Twitter so awful. In that case, the interests of the audience outweighed the interests of the status-author; this doesn't tell us that the interests of the audience should always outweigh those of the status-author, just that they did in that case. Each case should be considered on its own merits.

(I'm talking about "status-authors" and "the audience" as though they're two separate groups, but of course all of us are members of both groups at various times.)

This paternalism is unwarranted

I disagree that this is paternalism at all. As you identified earlier in your comment, what's really at issue is trading off interests of different groups. No one is saying (paternalisticly) that status-authors themselves will be better off if they're not allowed to limit replies. Instead, some people in this thread are saying that status-authors should not be allowed to prohibit replies because their interest in doing so is outweighed by the audience's interest in replying. As I've discussed at length earlier in this thread, I side with the status-authors in this case.

In the other issue you cited, the debate is similar: reasonable people agree that status-authors want to make local-only posts. However, we need to weigh that against the interests of audience members who want to follow local events without creating a second account or moving their primary account to that particular instance. And, for reasons I've expressed in that thread, I side with the audience in that situation.

My point is not to relitigate the merits of either of those issues. It's just to say that, in both cases, we're talking about trade offs between one group and another; neither issue is about paternalism; and both issues should be decided on their own merits—not by applying a general rule of "always side with the status-authors" or "always side with the audience".

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kizu commented Sep 5, 2018

One thing I want to note. When looking at arguments, there is a big difference between those.

The arguments of those who want an option to disable replies come from the actual cases of harassment people had experienced. And other platforms, that had this option to disable replies, that option helped tremendously and there were no substantial problems caused by this.

When looking at arguments of the opponents to the option to disable replies we see that they're all abstract theories and what-ifs, not really grounded in reality. The mute option, that those people say should be enough, already exists and clearly is not enough. The abstract thoughts about what the audience wants are just that — abstract thoughts not based on actual experience.

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koyuawsmbrtn commented Sep 5, 2018

If this feature is being implemented can the bot owners decide if they want to have replies to the posts the bots are making? Another thing is, that moderators should be able to disable replies, the same goes for the users to disable replies for existing posts all at once (for example posts older than x days or all posts before this feature was being introduced).

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ensra commented Sep 5, 2018

@kizu

Please explain how this is an anti-harassment feature.

User blocks, instance blocks, thread mutes, private posts (post visibility options in general), approving followers — those are all anti-harassment features.

What this does is prevent people from responding to misinformation. It doesn't matter if replies aren't visible to a user, that's their right. Removing the option entirely produces a different dynamic. I want anti-harassment technology to protect people's mental health. Not to protect and insulate the powerful from other people seeing responses to their posts.

If the mute option already exists and isn't enough for people to browse their timelines in peace maybe it needs to be fixed?

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rysiekpl commented Sep 5, 2018

@ensra this has been explained multiple times in this thread. Among many others, here:

If the mute option already exists and isn't enough for people to browse their timelines in peace maybe it needs to be fixed?

Clearly it does need to be "fixed" or improved upon. This feature request is exactly this kind of improvement.

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kizu commented Sep 5, 2018

@ensra Feel free to re-read this thread, “how this is an anti-harassment feature” was already explained there, and not once.

What this does is prevent people from responding to misinformation.

This is not true. People could still respond, just not in a form of direct replies.

Also, clearly, when there would be such feature and an indication that the replies are disabled to a toot, other people could as well understand the fact that there wouldn't be direct responses with rebuttals, and when in doubt, they could go and look for those responses themselves. And yes, author of a toot is not obliged to provide a platform for those who want to challenge their view.

If this is some harmful misinformation, then it would be much more effective to go and report such toots to mods, providing your sources.

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oct2pus commented Sep 5, 2018

@ensra i think an easy solution to this would be to prevent them from being boostable. It would allow the good benefits of 'no replies' (pinned posts, bot posts, vent posts, posts you just don't want to be @'d) while preventing malicious spread of misinformation (besides if you can't reply why even have it be boostable to begin with, what sort of post would want that? Why would you want your post to spread if you don't want any commentary?)

i have to agree with @kizu that we SHOULD be able to go to our moderator if such a toot is painful or bad, but I think preventative measures prior to moderator action allow us to reduce mod workloads and help main some sanity. We also have to consider bad/lazy moderators who might disagree with your assessment and/or agree with the poster, which can lead to further inter-server conflict.

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keiyakins commented Sep 5, 2018

What would setting this actually do? I mean, I agree in principle it's nice, but we can't straight up prevent people replying without controlling their instance. Here's what I think such a setting could do, and which I think in practice would be good enough for most purposes:

  1. Your instance refuses to accept any replies. They're not shown to you, they don't show up on the original toot's page, etc. Any users on your instance who try to reply (using a third party client that doesn't understand the 'no replies' information, for instance) finds their toot is rejected entirely and not posted anywhere.
  2. The toot has a flag set that requests other instances not allow replies. This isn't enforcable - in the most obvious case, old instances that haven't been updated or instances running other software might not understand what they're being asked at all. There's also malicious instances that deliberately disable that functionality. That's where the first thing comes in.
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Cassolotl commented Sep 5, 2018

but we can't straight up prevent people replying without controlling their instance.

That's not true.

If you try to reply to a post that has been deleted on its originating instance but the delete instruction hasn't reached your own instance, you get an error message, like "could not find post that you're trying to reply to."

So with replies disabled, it could be like that. It could behave like a deleted toot, but the toot is still there. The original post could have information attached to it that says "replies off" and the receiving instance could understand it and remove the reply button. But if the receiving instance didn't recognise that, as a last resort the originating instance could send out an error message when you try to reply, that says something like "error: the toot you're trying to respond to has replies turned off". It would send an error signal, but you wouldn't be controlling someone else's instance. (Edit: Unless you think that closing/locking your front door is controlling other people's ability to rob you, and then I don't know what to tell you. :D) The boundary would be on the originating instance.

I mean, I'm not a coder but if we can get error messages when replying to deleted toots I think we can get error messages for toots that have replies disabled.

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Cassolotl commented Sep 5, 2018

@oct2pus If the toot is unboostable but can still receive replies then it doesn't address this feature request at all, it just does an entirely different thing...? To clarify, are you suggesting that instead we have the option to post public but unboostable toots?

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oct2pus commented Sep 6, 2018

@Cassolotl i proposed that a toot that cannot be replied to also cannot be boosted, I realized now I failed to make that clear and assumed it was inferred, my mistake.

I don't have a preference if it appears on the public (federated) timeline or not actually, although considering that you would not be able to reply or boost it, it would probably not be a wise idea to put it on the public timeline.

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Cassolotl commented Sep 6, 2018

@oct2pus Oh I see! Excellent, thanks for clarifying. :)

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Natanji commented Sep 6, 2018

I am very divided on this issue. I'm part of multiple minorities, I know what it's like to be harassed, and I know how both quote-tweets and replies are used to harass on Twitter. I once posted an introduction to myself including being trans, made that my pinned tweet... and over time, the replies from harassers who left hurtful comments just kind of stacked, forcing me to eventually unpin that tweet. Reporting them did nothing (because Twitter), and since there is no common consensus in the Fediverse that remote instances will remove posts "You're not a real woman, you're a man", reporting also wouldn't do shit if this happened in the Fediverse. (This is one of the reasons why I don't have a pinned introduction toot here so far).

I believe I should be safe from this kind of harassment. And the currently available means aren't enough for it. I don't want these hurtful comments below my toots, I don't want people reading what I write to be exposed to that. Twitter has actually become kinda good at hiding hurtful toots or toots of users it detected to be posting questionable things, shadowbanning them and all that stuff. Those are anti-harassment features currently not available on Mastodon, and probably they'll never be due to its decentralized nature.

But I also see the other side of the issue. I absolutely disagree with @kizu that people can still adequately respond to misinformation when direct replies are disabled. I can then only toot at my own followers, but the people viewing the misinformation will be an entirely different set of people. I think stopping the spread of misinformation absolutely requires the ability to directly reply to this misinformation, i.e. the ability to post the corrected information pretty much at the same place so that people viewing the misinformation can see other views on the topic.

This is pretty much what we're deciding between. Both having this feature and not having it have clear benefits and risks associated with them. From an anti-harassment perspective, this feature would be amazing. (I also believe no replies should have this feature, but only top-level toots, because otherwise I can see this being abused) From the network perspective, this might invite the spread of misinformation and undisputed hate.

The reason why I still believe this feature would be good to have is because I believe the report feature can much better deal with more global issues like misinformation than local issues such as harrasment. The problem with misinformation is only really there if it spreads. If someone writes a no-reply toot with shitty stuff that people can't respond with, this will actually funnel the users into using the report feature more, because that's the most direct thing they can do against it. If someone harasses you, it's a very local, personalized thing that only a single user might experience - so the report feature will often not be used, bad actors will not be punished.

If you get 100 harassing replies you won't report every single one of them because it takes so much effort, you're down and overwhelmed already, and they can all just makes new accounts and keep harassing you if they want. But if misinformation is at the risk of spreading, then the user spreading it will have an account with quite some followers; removing the user or the toot is a much more effective means of extinguishing the misconduct here. They can also make a new account, but will have to start over with 0 followers.

So this is why I believe that within the overall ecosystem of tools for desirable conduct on Mastodon, this feature would ultimately be a good fit.

@kizu

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kizu commented Sep 6, 2018

Thinking more about it.

If the replies are disabled, then the boosting would be disabled as well.

This would be a compromise, as there would totally be legitimate cases for having a no-replies boostable toots, but for a lot of purposes (like pinned tweets with some info, rants, sharing personal stuff, more private (in terms of who participate) discussions etc.) it would be ok?

I can also see how you could still make a shareable thread, with initial toots having disabled replies & boosts, and then ending it with a boostable & repliable toot which people could share, and which to use for the interaction. And if there would be harassment in response to this exact toot, it would be very easy to stop it by deleting it, but still keeping the original toots intact, thus disconnecting the discussions that followed from the original thread.

I still think it should be possible to make every toot, even in the threads, unrepliable, but there should be the following rules to it:

  1. If the toot is a reply, and there are mentions of people in it, those people should still be able both to reply (not sure if they should be able to boost, probably not).

  2. The author of the toot with disabled replies should still be able to reply, thus continuing the thread, and, as with other toot settings, the replies should still be disabled by default for this reply (but the author should be able to change those if they wish to, before sending it).

  3. If the toot is a reply and all the @-mentions are deleted (and it is a reply not by the author of the original toot), then I'd say that this toot should lose the connection to the original toot, as this is something I can see being potentially used for harassment (it would be basically sharing a thread & disabling replies). This would have the same problem as no-replies itself (it would be up to a client to show or not show the connection I think?), but I think it could be done when possible.

  4. I think that the disabling replies shouldn't be a binary checkbox, but should be basically almost a copy of the original privacy settings — you should be able to set the replies to public, followers-only, and no replies (or “direct”, as replies from those mentioned must be accepted). There is a problem with “followers only”, as it would be much more preferable to be “mutuals only”, but it is a separate issue of the privacy settings in Mastodon itself.

  5. This is probably a separate issue, but very connected both idea-wise and implementation-wise — there should be some kind of a global “lock down” mode for an account, which an author should be able to activate, which should lock down all replies and boosts to everything.

Questions to every party: does this sounds ok?

Question to those who oppose disabling replies — do the disabling of the boosts at the same time would be ok of a compromise for you?

Question to those who are pro disabling replies — would the disabling of the boosts alongside be bad for some reason? Should we accept this compromise in order to make this feature more likely to be implemented?

It would be also nice to read what @Gargron would say about this whole issue as well, to understand if we should keep wasting our time in finding compromises, or this feature would be denied anyway in any form. And if this feature is welcome — what should the community do next in order to make it happen.

@Cassolotl

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Cassolotl commented Sep 6, 2018

I'm pro disabling replies, and I'd be okay with those posts being unboostable, I think.

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Natanji commented Sep 6, 2018

I think having no-reply toots be unboostable solves my concerns about them being used to be abused to e.g. mass-spread misinformation. The legitimate use case for no-reply toots is clearly more private in nature.

About the suggestion to have fine-grained controls over who can reply, eh, I'm very sceptical about this. Who would be able to reply to such a reply? Would it lock down reply-ability to the original user's followers, or to the followers of the person who replied? I also think this is typical tech-think, make it all very very fine-grained but from the UX side it would be huge confusing mess I think. Let's not make this any more complicated. If you want replies only from your followers, then set the toot visibility to "followers only" and allow replies.

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kizu commented Sep 6, 2018

I partly agree with the fine-grained stuff. This is also something that could be (if even should be) done later, as a separate issue, as it would be totally possible to start with just binary unboostable replies open/closed (with the mentioned people/initial author exceptions), and then, after some time and experience with this new mode, it would be easier to understand if the more control needed, or is it would be enough.

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keiyakins commented Sep 6, 2018

@Cassolotl And someone could alter their instance to post it anyway, ignoring the error message. The door analogy doesn't work because different instances have different laws of 'physics'

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Cassolotl commented Sep 7, 2018

@keiyakins Oh, I see what you meant in the first place then!

Well, I've seen "a bad actor could modify their instance to disrespect that" used to argue against every anti-harassment feature.

The reply to the no-replies toot would only show on the modified instance, which could be damaging, but would also be reason for instance-blocks I'm sure, so good admins would hesitate before doing it and bad admins would be providing evidence that their instance could be immediately blocked for malicious behaviour (deliberately modifying the Mastodon code to break a consent boundary).

But if up-to-date and well-intentioned instances respect the no replies setting, no-replies toots would never show replies on the originating instance even if someone had modified another instance to ignore the error message and post anyway.

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Natanji commented Sep 7, 2018

This. Quoting toots would also be hell easy to implement on a "rogue" instance, but people on most instances won't see it as a quoted toot and so it works against harassment. @Cassolotl is absolutely right that this is no reason to not implement this.

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trwnh commented Sep 8, 2018

@kizu

I think that the disabling replies shouldn't be a binary checkbox, but should be basically almost a copy of the original privacy settings — you should be able to set the replies to public, followers-only, and no replies

This is too confusing and would create a factorial explosion in complexity with the current privacy system. It opens the door to "public" posts that aren't really "public", "followers-only" posts that could potentially be replied to by non-followers if they leak, and other very weird results. It would be very difficult to do over ActivityPub without adding an entirely separate matrix of object capabilities -- that really goes beyond the scope of a simple feature addition, and it becomes a protocol issue.


To re-iterate (#8565 (comment)), we can do the following in the current ecosystem:

  • signal a reply preference using a new field/value, which may be implemented as a Mastodon-only extension for now
  • drop any incoming replies that make it through, so that they do not appear linked below a status (with all the caveats detailed in earlier comments)
  • wait for object capabilities to become a fleshed-out standard like ActivityPub, so that you can arbitrarily grant (or later revoke) "the ability to reply" as opposed to treating replies as "something that you receive"

Especially with respect to the 2nd and 3rd point, currently, revoking "the ability to reply" is modeled as a "block" (which is also revoking "the ability to request delivery", incidentally). In the current paradigm, anything you can locate, you can also reference. If you know a Web resource's identifier, then you can refer to it -- and in reverse, if you can refer to something, then you can de-reference. This is how locations (URLs) are dereferenced to identifiers (URIs) by servers. And you can't prevent people from referring to things they know about; you can only ignore or throw away incoming references based on certain rules. This leads to potentially infinite rules, and an even greater infinity of interaction between rules.

Essentially, each post needs its own separate reply ID, which can only be requested cryptographically; the inReplyTo should then be pointed at that secret ID, which is only given out upon valid requests. As long as replies refer to public URIs, we can only keep adding rules for how to treat incoming replies. It's exactly like publishing a phone number or email address.

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nightpool commented Sep 8, 2018

@trwnh i've been trying to keep my comments to the AP ticket, but there are probably other ways to federate more complicated semantics without going full ocap (for example, requiring Accepts for replies like we currently do for Follows). Obviously this is still "adding rules for how to treat incoming replies", but it's not particularly difficult to conceive of adding in the same way.

i think we should focus here on what the simplest desired UX should be, and then worry about how to implement it later.

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trwnh commented Sep 8, 2018

@nightpool I think that would certainly work, but not offer any security guarantees; it's what I called above "signal a preference and then drop any invalid incoming replies", yeah. Replies still might exist on remote servers as long as they can continue to refer to posts. Then again, that's mostly an implementation detail -- any server can link any two posts, and can even forge posts in its local database if it wanted to. I still wonder if it isn't too hard to simply ask the originating server which valid replies exist... worth discussing more in-depth on the AP ticket though

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bgcarlisle commented Dec 3, 2018

What would it take to get this seriously considered?

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barzamin commented Dec 3, 2018

@bgcarlisle this is currently blocked on a standards-level snag (cf w3c/activitypub#319); afaict, it has been seriously considered on the AP side of things, and if we reach a decision there, doing this in mastodon proper would then be an exercise in implementation. pleroma also seems to have interest in doing this; there are a lot of people interested in AP extensions for finer-grained interaction scopes.

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spaceottercode commented Dec 18, 2018

So what's the status and prospects of having a non-boostable no-reply no-frills option at the time of toot authorship?

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trwnh commented Dec 18, 2018

@spaceottercode It can be done locally by simply discarding all incoming interactions, but lacks a signaling method to let others know that interactions will be discarded, so your preference will be ignored by other servers.

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