Accusations by MastodonUno will not stop freedom of information

The group of people that administer MastodonUno and the Diggitaverse is known under the name of Devol. The group grows up in the shadow of filippodb – former web 2.0 sorcerer, prodigal techbro, and de facto Devol group leader. It is an error to infer a 100% overlap between their own thoughts and filippodb’s since the group shows some degree of independent judgement. However, this is not the case we discuss today. It seems a ChatGPT-like stochastic parrot was trained on filippodb’s messages and wrote an appeal on Devol’s official blog. The group makes accusations against the author of the blog you are currently reading, against people in the fediverse sharing its posts, and against fediverse instances hosting those people. At the moment being, their accusations are made of informal, both public statements and private messages.

Their words are made to let people think they will promote legal actions against them. As far as I know, nobody has received a formal cease-and-desist letter by their lawyer. However, the use of pettifoging language is intended to “persuade” people to stop keeping themselves informed and it similarly affects the public discourse as legal bullying (a sort of para-legal bullying?). You can find a few words about 101 Criminal Law as bonus part at the bottom of the post.

Instead of preventive self-censorship, one should do the opposite, documenting and sharing information. The key is solidarity, so that one will not feel alone and isolated by such baseless accusations. Do not trust Devol’s reconstructions and wanna-be quotes. Always read the context where words are written. Several examples as follows: – The fact that «Filippo Della Bianca himself enthusiastically rolled out the red carpet to Claudio Messora [...] one of Della Bianca’s old acquaintances, from the days when Byoblu was “yet another” HIV/AIDS denialist blog under the Diggita umbrella» becomes – in Devol’s words – that Filippo Della Bianca is accused of belonging to a sort-of “HIV/AIDS denialist” sect, and of supporting these theories («parte di una sorta di setta di “ HIV/AIDS denialist” e appoggiare queste teorie»). It is a straw man to avoid criticism.

Figure 1: Diggita sharing button on young Byoblu website. October 2008.

Figure 2: Diggita sharing button on Byoblu website before the 2019 restyling. February 2018, ten years later.

Figure 3: “Hello, world. Welcome, Freedom!”. filippodb boosts Byoblu admin account (which belongs to Messora). 15/04/2020.

Figure 4: filippodb’s enthusiasm about 10k new users in the fediverse cannot be undermined by Byoblu node spreading fake news. 19/04/2020.

Figure 5: Byoblu looking for experts for a video. 21/04/2020.

Figure 6: “Byoblu got everybody in the line!”. filippodb’s enthusiasm is actually esteem (envy?). 09/05/2020.

Figure 7: MastodonUno instance silences isolateByoblu and isolateGab counter-information initiatives, which used the tag #byoblu to spread awareness about Byoblu instance. In the meantime, posts by Byoblu supporters were visible. That way, no one in the MastodonUno could be reached by isolateByoblu and isolateGab. 06/08/2020.

Figure 8: such abused Martin Niemöller’s sermon, adapted for Byoblu, the time self-organised instances de-federated Byoblu. filippodb boosts the toot, roughly meaning “We will not de-federate it”. 20/04/2020.

Figure 9: filippodb defies criticism. “If MastodonSocial does not de-federate Byoblu, therefore MastodonUno will not take responsibilities.” 17/04/2020.

Figure 10: again, filippodb defies criticism. The fact that Byoblu spreads out the fediverse was not enough to de-federate it. Byoblu promised they will block far-right content (!) so that is enough for MastodonUno. 19/04/2020.

Figure 11: again x2, filippodb defies criticism. Byoblu updated policy to block fascist content. That is enough for MastodonUno. 24/04/2020.

Figure 12: 6 months later, MastodonUno had still been federating Byoblu. Since isolateByoblu accounts outside MastodonUno were silenced by MastodonUno, the initiative made a brand-new account on MastodonUno. The day after, isolateByoblu on MastodonUno was silenced, so that its messages could not go in the MastodonUno home and federated timeline. 18/10/2020.

Figure 13: Funkwhale developers collective blocks FunkwhaleIt. 02/04/2020.

Figure 14: Framasoft (the NGO developing Mobilizon and Peertube) warns against country-based or language-based centralising strategies. In reply to people asking for the officialism of MobilizonIt and PeertubeUno. 16/11/2020.

If Devol made arguments of this kind, I hope you would not mind some suggestion: – Do not give in to provocation. Aggressive stances are made on purpose to attract any kind of criticism, so that they can cherry-pick which kind of criticism and deflect criticism as a whole with whataboutism. Don’t give them a chance. – Consider to de-federate MastodonUno. Federation means trust. It is not the first time you expose your user base and your server to legal action, and professional data harvesters are fed by your user base (unencrypted!) messages, interactions, and metadata. For such a long time, we have lost the focus that this para-legal bullying puts the existence of self-organised instances and the lives themselves of both hosts and guests at perils.

I am sorry for technicalities but I think knowing some basics of Criminal Law helps us to face that kind of accusations. ⚠️ N.B.: do not take my words as legal advice.

First of all, just for the sake of example, let us assume the conducts we treat here are relevant in Italy and Italian jurisdiction holds, according to electronic commerce regulations. Do not take that assumption for granted: consider it as a worst case scenario.

The concept of freedom of speech in Italy is different from other countries, e.g. U.S.A.: there is no absolute right to tell the truth. The Court of Cassation (the Italian court of last resort) identified the following 3 criteria to discriminate freedom of speech from defamation, which is a criminal offence: 1- countenance of language 2- truthfulness of the events narrated 3- public relevance of the fact So, as long as the 3 criteria are fulfilled, one can sleep soundly. For further information, read Casarotti’s recap here (N.B.: Italian). Can these 3 criteria be applied in our case? Who reads is left to make their own judgement. If that is the case, who admin the Diggitaverse are fully responsible of bad reputation with their conducts.

Last but not least, if: 1- anyone accuses – even informally – someone of a criminal offence, 2- the events narrated are false, and 3- that might provoke an investigation by Italian authorities, then it is calumny (the “formal slander”) and it is on turn a criminal offence. The “might provoke” part is the key, since it is a crime even if the act itself did not cause harm to the protected interests: it is a “crime of danger” (“Gefährdungsdelikt”). Words written on a fairly unknown blog have – even abstractly – zero risk to start an investigation by Italian authorities. Consider that, the post you are currently reading is the first where the criminal relevance of brandjacking conducts is discussed, not because we have ever had some sort of interest in criminal prosecution. We are forced to discuss it because we are on turn accused of another crime – calumny. And the discussion is trivial: copyright infringement (the umbrella term for brandjacking etc.) shall be filed by the copyright holder as a complaint, otherwise there is no criminal relevance. And all the offences that are prosecuted on complaint cannot be the premise of a calumny, unless the complaint is filed and investigations are needed to check whether the offence itself is punishable only by complaint (some clue here, page 10, N.B.: Italian), which is totally not the case for copyright infringement.