Independent Federated Trust and Safety: Who, What, and How?

Federated Moderation needs to get a lot better.

With the recent report dropping on the problem of CSAM in the Fediverse, Trust and Safety is a big topic on the network right now. Instance admins and moderators have been asking the difficult questions, and groups are beginning to work together to collectively solve problems.

Page from IFTAS Moderation Needs report.

Page Title: "Current State"
Text on Left: "21,000+ activity pub services online, federating
800M posts / month
21,000+ individuals responsible for content
moderation, many of whom may have at best a basic
understanding of trust & safety
limited resources for server operators to obtain
moderator support
no legal guidance, no compliance resources"

A graph on right indicates the amount of fediverse instances, from 2019 to 2023. The curve is a hockey stick going way, way up.
Page from the report: Scaling Trust & Safety in the Fediverse

Who is IFTAS?

Independent Federated Trust and Safety (IFTAS) is a 501(c)3 non-profit sponsored by New Venture Fund. It’s a relatively young organization, but it has some excellent goals.

  1. Community of Practice – a means to share best practices, seek advice from each other, and gain access to mental health and wellness resources.
  2. Group Representation – third parties such as cybersecurity providers, privacy agencies, copyright holders and more can funnel requests and resources through IFTAS, on behalf of its members. IFTAS can serve as a group purchaser for the thousands of service providers operating in the Fediverse.
  3. Sustainability – create a self-sustaining non-profit by soliciting organisational sponsors, and providing moderation-as-a-service to those who need our help.

In the intervening months between our planning activities and our formation, we’ve seen issues around spam account registrations, inauthentic activity and network attacks, CSAM concerns, as well as the closed beta for Bluesky, the addition of ActivityPub to WordPress, the announcement of Meta’s Threads product, and we’ve been discussing these and more in our Matrix chat space.

IFTAS Introductory Blog Post

What is IFTAS doing?

To work towards their goals, IFTAS intends to address some low-hanging fruit: moderation tools, regulatory compliance, and comprehensive mental health resources for members. The organization is also issuing a new survey to assess the needs of admins and moderators in the Fediverse.

Collaboration with Larger Orgs

After 23 of 27 participants indicated interest in a prior survey, IFTAS has also secured initial funding to obtain membership to TSPA, the Trust and Safety Professional Association. Although participation may initially be small, there are a few key benefits:

  • Educational Content regarding Trust and Safety
  • Sharing of expertise on emerging fields, such as the Fediverse
  • Connection to professional peers throughout the industry

Development of Shared Resources

IFTAS contributors are also working on several different RFCs to discuss various tools, techniques, and methodologies for harm reduction. RFC #1: Include Mastodon.Social Blocklist At Install proposes a way to reduce malicious instances upon initial launch. There’s an open conversation regarding restricted names, which could help cut down on intersection with troll accounts.

What’s Next?

These are still early days for the project, but they’ve been very busy. Right now, it appears IFTAS is working on its initial structure and organization. In the meantime, they’re also promoting and collaborating with other initiatives such as FediFence and The Nivenly Foundation’s Federated Safety Enhancement Project. I hope to see these different efforts converge, and grow into the robust organization the Fediverse needs.

Thanks for reading about IFTAS! You can check out these links related to them below:

Sean Tilley

Sean Tilley has been a part of the federated social web for over 15+ years, starting with his experiences with back in 2008. Sean was involved with the Diaspora project as a Community Manager from 2011 to 2013, and helped the project move to a self-governed model. Since then, Sean has continued to study, discuss, and document the evolution of the space and the new platforms that have risen within it.

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