Can the promise of safe, equitable community-run platforms be fulfilled?

Chinmayi S K, James Tomasino, Michał Woźniak, Philip Kopetzky

Much has been said about the toxicity and wanton disregard for safety displayed by the major social media and other corporate-run platforms.

Community-run platforms exist, some becoming household names and gaining immense popularity, but upon closer inspection they, too, struggle with creating safe, equitable spaces. Can we do better?
Hands On

The needs of Social platforms today include that of safety and freedom of expression.

Community-run platforms like Wikipedia or decentralized networks of community-run spaces like the Fediverse offer models of building and maintaining community spaces online alternative to the platforms run and controlled top-down by corporate entities.

Those community-run spaces are rightfully thought of as more keenly attuned to the needs of their community members, and more responsive to issues that affect them. They provide opportunities to be thoughtful and deliberate in dealing with issues faced by the community due to their very form.

They are built with the intention to enable the community they serve and to achieve a common purpose. For some of them, support for change and protection for people in the community was intentionally built-in from the start; others grew the ability to address these challenges during their journey.

And yet they still fail their community members. The Saudi government was found infiltrating Wikipedia administrators leading to imprisonment of several Wikipedia editors; administrators in question were terminated from Wikipedia, but the costs that the editors had to bear to keep content independent and factual is unconscionable. The Fediverse, for all its diversity and inclusiveness, still often shows itself to be a very white space struggling to provide a safe space for people of color.

In this session we inquire to see how well these community-run spaces are able to address the needs of their communities. We will interrogate different models for such spaces (a hierarchical Wikipedia model is markedly different from the very horizontal Fediverse) and see if conclusions can be drawn about which of their features help or stifle the ability to keep their communities safe. We will consider the complexities of addressing issues related to safety while functioning in their present forms.

We seek to reflect on how can we build better support, what assumptions and structures work, and which of them do we need to seriously rethink.

Image of Chinmayi S K
Founder and Member
Headshot of Italian guy in his 40s facing the camera with a greying beard, black hair a bit curly just past the ears, and a calm and open expression
Small Internet Advocate and Community Admin
Michał "rysiek" Woźniak
Chief Information Security Officer