Safety on Mastodon vs. Twitter ("X")

Mastodon is safer than Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok in so many ways.

Safety on Mastodon vs. Twitter ("X")

As Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter continues to cast doubt on the continuation of that company, new concerns about safety are on the rise. Of course, firing most of Twitter’s staff has had an obvious effect, especially with Musk’s plan to charge major accounts $8 per month for a verified mark. But the problems of safety with Twitter are inherent. Any corporate-owned social media platform will be inherently insecure.

Don’t believe me? Check out this list of data breaches Twitter has experienced. It’s not even a comprehensive list!

On Twitter, huge teams of people have access to all your personal information, your direct messages, and more. Every single person who has this access is a point of risk — even with the best security practices in place, there is no guarantee that your data is safe (actually, there’s basically a guarantee that it’s not).

And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the inherent breaches of trust that all big companies operate within. All these giant companies see you, a living, breathing, loving, thinking human being… as a battery that generates profit. They don’t care if they use you up. They don’t care what happens to you, on an individual level.

All of these companies twist the laws of the land to their own perverse aims, while all the while using the data generated from your existence to fuel massive bonuses for their executives.

Mastodon Is More Exciting Than Twitter
Mastodon offers a wild, untapped, landscape of incredible potential.

So, why is Mastodon so danged special?

Mastodon is part of something affectionately referred to as the “Fediverse.” This is a federation of different social media platforms that can all connect with one another and share data with one another.

Think of Federation like a collection of towns. The software that allows people to travel to other towns, and to connect with friends, is like the network of roads between the towns.

With Twitter, it’s more like a giant city with a wall. All the transportation is provided by the city’s corrupt council, and all the citizens are stalked by surveillance.

On Mastodon, each server is basically a “town” that stores the data of the people who live there. This might be data from hundreds, thousands, or tens-of-thousands of people… but is significantly less than the millions of people who are stuck behind the Twitter-city’s giant wall.

And that’s where one of the most significant differences in fundamental security lies.

On Mastodon, the administrators of a server still have access to the data of the people who “live in their town,” but they don’t have access to the data of the people in the next town over. If one server is breached by bad actors, the other servers aren’t. Likewise, if one server is taken offline (due to an accident, a natural disaster, or a political upheaval in the hosting country), the people who were part of that server can easily move elsewhere without losing their friends and followers.

Myths About Mastodon
If you’re new to the federated social network, this is for you.

What are the risks, really?

The risks of joining Mastodon are considerably less than those you take with a major tech site. The risks are still real, of course, but risk is everywhere in both the cyber and physical worlds. Let me illustrate.

Did you know that for $50 I can get a detailed report on where you live, your DMV record, the full history of every phone number you’ve ever used, and a dossier on anyone who you’ve ever shared a residence with? I can, and it’s not even illegal.

The truth is: safety is a highly relative term. How safe do you, personally, need to be? If you’re the survivor of domestic abuse and need to ensure your abuser doesn’t find you, keep your social media presence anonymous or private.

When it comes to the Internet, you need to remember that nothing you send or post is actually private. The best thing you can do is use the Signal app to ensure that your communications are secure (never send credit card information over email, for instance).

Do you remember when messages sent directly to someone were called “Private Messages?” These days, “Direct Message” or “DM” is a far more common phrase. It’s also more accurate.

Nothing you send on Twitter, Facebook, or Mastodon is actually “private” in the sense that only you and the recipient can read it. Accepting this is key. Once you understand that, you can actually be a lot safer. End-to-End encrypted services like Signal are the only way to get privacy.

Once you get over that hurdle, deciding which service is safer is an easy task. Do you pick the giant city you’re not allowed to leave, the one that watches everything you do in order to monetize it?

Or, do you pick a small town connected to hundreds of other, thriving little settlements? Why pick Twitter when you can choose a place you can move from at any time, a place you know was intentionally designed to empower real human beings, not corporate profits?

And, if you want to secure yourself further, just activate two-factor authentication.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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