Astroturfing the Italophone fediverse with Mastodon Uno

[published on 2023-04-06]

Since Mastodon Uno is turning into a suite of software as a service, it is appropriate to spend some word about.

Mastodon Uno is a predatory Italophone instance that indulges in aggressive marketing strategies and, by design, gets people mystified about its goals, ownership, and approach to the fediverse. The project is deeply against the concept of federation itself, and is intended to seize the relational and structural capital of other Italian-speaking instances towards a local centralization. The same applies to all the nodes of mainly-federating software maintained by the Devol group, led by the de facto leader filippodb account a.k.a. Filippo Della Bianca, a so-called “ethical entrepreneur” or simply techbro, former Google intermediary and founder of Mastodon Uno.

We call that network of instances “Diggitaverse”, from filippodb’s “Diggita”, which on turn brand-jacks the well-known citizens’ journalism software Digg and propagates by the means of SEO automated translations from the Spanish equivalent Menéame. (further info) To name a few: Mastodon Uno, Peertube Uno, Pixelfed Uno, Funkwhale It, Mobilizon It, and Noblogo Org belong to the Diggitaverse.

Devol and filippodb misappropriate other software identities as elected predatory marketing strategy, often declined in the Italian-speaking context. Similarly to other instances of the Diggitaverse, Mastodon Uno is misconceived as “the flagship instance of the Italic [sic] Fediverse”, “the first [whatever it means] Mastodon instance in the Italian Fediverse”, a sort of Italian chapter of Mastodon approved by the main Mastodon developers. That happened many times, and not without controversy. They show themselves as if they lead a grassroots project, also mimicking the discourse and the language of the self-organised instances. This practice is called “astroturfing”, from the commercial name of a synthetic grass. However, strengthened by their past as web 2.0 sorcerers, they are perfectly aware of how to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) towards grassroots instances, even with McCarthyist and slanderous intents of dire consequences putting both hosts and guests of self-organised instances at perils.

On the one hand they make false accusations, on the other hand they unscrupulously had facilitated fascists “with suit and tie” in the fediverse for half a year, i.e. until most of the information capital had been extracted from fascists’ instance. In fact, Filippo Della Bianca himself enthusiastically rolled out the red carpet to Claudio Messora, owner of Byoblu, an Infowars-like media company with tentacles in television, publishing, and marketplaces. Please consider that, Messora is one of Della Bianca’s old acquaintances, from the days when Byoblu was “yet another” HIV/AIDS denialist blog under the Diggita umbrella, i.e. when Byoblu’s red-brown third-positioning wasn’t fully developed. In the meantime, Mastodon Uno silences critics against their “welcoming behaviour” towards fascists-and-the-like, mainly the accounts of isolateByoblu and isolateGab. (screenshots) Eventually, after the cordone sanitaire around Byoblu instance succeded and Masto Host (which hosted Byoblu and hosts Mastodon Uno) changed its policy, Mastodon Uno de-federated Byoblu. Mastodon It, which is under the hood the guide of Mastodon Uno to Mastodon... Uno, cured a so-called “black list” of “problematic instances”. The list has been uncritically and implicitly adopted by the de facto “decoy guides” Mastodon Link and Fediverso Info too. Mastodon It and Mastodon Link had been listed as “External links” in the Mastodon page of the Italophone Wikipedia for a while.

Mastodon It threw all the Italophone self-organised instances in the “black list” cauldron, putting them at the same level of e.g. the fascist Byoblu. Notwithstanding, they did not defederate the self-organised instances, whereas the ghost of Byoblu [cf. above] became another vessel of defamation. However, although Mastodon Uno federates the grassroots instances, we have proof of Mastodon Uno silencing or suspending 100+ accounts hosted by grassroots instances – 60+ of which belong to individuals. Not by chance, these accounts are also among the long-running ones on the Italophone fediverse, aware of Mastodon Uno astroturfing, and critical to their centralization strategy. That is a dangerous transparency sinkhole for Mastodon Uno users, fooled by the misleading motto “There is no algorithm on Mastodon”.

Most of the other Italian-speaking nodes, whether convincing or not, did not isolate Mastodon Uno and other Diggitaverse instances. The approach was partly due to explain who was on the Diggitaverse what kind of instance they were into. Also, there was a concrete fear of isolating themselves from the rest of the fediverse. But Mastodon Uno admin silences all those critical voices of their predatory strategies, in order to mask their original intent, and to keep their users in a golden cage. It is a way of engineering the filter bubble around their users, covering up all the “holes” of the bubble.
The results are, some people dropped Mastodon and the fediverse, convinced that Mastodon was Mastodon Uno, in some way indistinguishable from Twitter and therefore preferring the original. Others abandon social networking as a whole... which in principle is not a bad idea, but should be decided on different basis than experiencing a faux fediverse onboarding.

Tags: Brandjacking, Astroturfing, FUD, McCarthyism PredatoryStrategies, AggressiveMarketing, Fediverse, Centralisation