The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Harm minimisation for social network users

The alternative to harm minimisation for social pariahs

You don’t want unaccountable monopolies mining every intimate detail of your personal relationships and deepest confidences?

Then don’t use social networks.

OK, in fact, not using them is harder than you’d like, because

So, given that you are using social networks, minimise the risk. Here are some strategies.

Pretend to be on social media but don’t actually bother

80% of my strategy is this. See faking being on social media.

Practice social surveillance hygiene

Roll your own social network

90s style! V. Cryptopunk!

If you don’t like the single-point-of-control corporates, such as Twitter and Facebook, perhaps you want more of a confederation of chancers, you could try am alternative federated open network. I think the only viable ones here are mastodon and diaspora*.

What follow are some sneakernettish decentralised forums/ social media for people who worry that their favourite social network might be politicall censored by state power or corporate manipulation.


André Staltz explains one such social media alternative, called scuttlebutt (which, to be precise, is shorthand for a complex ecology of pieces making up the “scuttleverse”, most of which, as a consumer, you can ignore.)

Scuttlebutt is decentralized in a similar way that Bitcoin or BitTorrent are. Unlike centralized systems like PayPal or Dropbox, there is no single website or server to connect when using decentralized services. Which in turn means there is no single company with control over the network.

However, Scuttlebutt differs from Bitcoin and BitTorrent because there are no “singleton components” in the network. When accessing the BitTorrent network, for instance, you need to connect to a Distributed Hash Table [for which] you need to connect to a bootstrapping server [and] still depend on the existence of ISPs and the internet backbone. Also, those systems are concerned about public information. For instance, with Bitcoin, each peer stores the entire log of all transactions ever sent by anyone.

Secure Scuttlebutt is also different to federated social networks like Mastodon, Diaspora, GNU social, OStatus. Those technologies are not peer-to-peer, because each component is either a server or a client, but not both. Federated social networks are slightly better than centralized services like Facebook because they provide some degree of choice where your data should be hosted. However, there is still trust and dependency on third-party servers and ISPs, which makes it possible for administrators of those to abuse their power, through content policies, privacy violations or censorship.

In Scuttlebutt, the “mesh” suffices. With simply two computers, a local router, and electricity, you can exchange messages between the computers with minimal effort and no technical skills. Each account in Scuttlebutt is a diary (or “log”) of what a person has publicly and digitally said. As those people move around between different WiFi / LAN networks, their log gets copy-pasted to different computers, and so digital information spreads.

What word of mouth is for humans, Scuttlebutt is for social news feeds. It is unstoppable and spreads fast.


Docker image/sanity check/tutorial.

The main backend bit is the distributed data store scuttlebot. On top of that you run user-facing apps like patchwork, which is a user forum thing.


Retroshare is…

  • A Decentralized Social Sharing Network designed For the People with no dependencies on any corporate system or central servers.
  • Make strong crypto useable for the average computer user, have strong crypto in daily communication.
  • The right to have secrets. You decide who can receive information. Hide information from intelligence agencies and spying companies.
  • Freedom of speech, no censorship.
  • Independence from corporate systems and centralized servers. Central services might shut down or change their terms of services at any time. Do you remember Myspace? Or German Studivz? Remember when Facebook changed their terms of service? Skype being bought by Microsoft?
  • Free software. Only free software can provide free and secure communication. Developers can read Retroshare’s source code and verify the security.

Features chat, voice and video, offline mail, file sharing, distributed search, forums and compatibility with TOR, and sneakernet everything.


“Open, free and uncensorable websites, using Bitcoin cryptography and BitTorrent network”

See zeronet