Mastodon Linking Norms

November 10th, 2022
mastodon, tech
Linking is one of the core activities of the web, and the origin of its name. I link to things when I want to talk about them, and this is very standard. If you want to link to any of my published posts you don't need to ask me first: I've already indicated that's fine by putting something out here for everyone to read.

I recently read a blog post by a Mastodon server admin that has me confused how this norm interacts with Mastodon:

On Saturday evening I published a post explaining a couple of things about Mastodon's history of dealing with toxic nodes on the network. ... I realised that some people had cross-posted my Mastodon post into Twitter. Someone else had posted a screenshot of it on Twitter. Nobody thought to ask if I wanted that.

I'm pretty confused. The post (citation redacted) is linked from their public profile, has its own public URL, isn't limited to followers or otherwise behind a permissions wall, and shows up in search results: it feels like "stuff someone put on the public web" to me, and a place where I'd expect normal web norms to apply? While I don't like the culture of sharing things by screenshot, in part because it's easy to accidentally bypass privacy settings that way, part of what the poster is objecting to is people sharing a link on Twitter. And that seems like something I would have expected to be completely fine to do without asking first?

It's also not clear to me whether the norm the author advocates applies to boosting a post on Mastodon. On one hand I'd think it wouldn't, because I haven't seen anyone saying "ask before boosting!" and the "boost" button doesn't have a consent flow. But on the other boosting is just makes a new post on your timeline that links back to the original post: when someone does this manually with a Twitter client or blog editor is that socially different from doing it automatically with the Mastodon UI? Especially since the author's original post was configured not to automatically federate (citation redacted) and the ~1.3k people boosting it removed that restriction allowing it to propagate to nearly everyone's federated timeline.

I realize this is a tricky situation for long-time Mastodon users, with lots of people coming in who don't know the local culture. As one of them I'd like to follow the existing norms for the space. It's not clear to me, however, what the norms around linking actually are, and if it's literally "always ask before linking" that's so far from the broader internet culture that it's going to be a hard norm to preserve.

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