A few months ago FT Alphaville thought it might be fun to host a Mastodon server. Boy, were we wrong!

It is therefore with relief and regret that we announce the closure of Alphaville.club, the totally unofficial home of this blog on the Fediverse. Our reasons are listed below in full but, to sum up, Mastodon proved to be more of a hassle than its worth.

If you signed up through Alphaville.club, switching to an existing server should be straightforward. We intend to give everyone three months to quit (as the Mastodon Server Covenant suggests), but if traffic drops to zero, we reserve the right to disconnect early.

In the meantime, for the benefit of billionaires in need and/or the Distressed Debt & Special Situations team at Morgan Stanley, here are some things we’ve learned about why taking responsibility for a social media site is a bad idea :

  • Compliance, security and reputational risks are significant and growing in unpredictable ways. Although largely hypothetical, these risks were considered serious enough to exercise management at the highest levels. These people have better things to do than clean up our mess.

  • The legal side is still a thousand times all that. Take, for example, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act 2016. Diligent people have spent years understanding how its imprecise formulations apply to media organisations. Do these same conclusions hold for a silo of user-generated content that is sort of but not really decentralized? I do not know. The only place to know for sure would be in court, and we’d really rather not.

  • Are Mastodon server owners liable for defamation of their users? It’s unlikely but, because defamation involves judges, it’s not impossible. Again, the value of discovery is offset by the cost of discovery.

  • Mastodon admins have access to direct messages from everyone by default. FTAV has no interest in creeping uninvited into anyone’s DMs and the best way to prove it is to suppress any opportunity.

  • All of the above is written from a UK perspective, but the lawyers are literally everywhere. There’s probably one behind you right now.

  • What about GDPR? Withdrawals from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? Electronic Commerce Regulations? CAN SPAM? FTAV treats user data with a combination of disinterest and disinterest, but this is not enough to ensure compliance with all relevant global laws and regulations.

  • For obvious reasons, we cannot use the big tech trick of concentrating lobbying efforts by putting all our servers in Luxembourg or Ireland.

  • Responsible ownership of a social media network requires daily backups, layer caching, downtime monitoring, load balancing, and a bunch of technical stuff that probably wouldn’t bother someone who didn’t does not have a social media network.

  • None of the things just referenced are fun.

  • Cloud services operate on the Hotel California principle: it’s easy to get started, but as soon as you get there, you’re stuck. After just a month, our barely visible Fediverse presence occupied 160 gigabytes, and each mandatory server upgrade had an exponential effect on the cost, measured in cash or carbon. Nuking really seems the only way out.

  • Using third-party versions of software and cloud services means trusting their terms and conditions, which requires reading them.

  • A tranche of interest on our syndicated debt is due by the end of January and we cannot lay off staff or win back advertisers, having neither.

  • This title :

As we said in November, Alphaville.club was an unofficial thing that would live or die on its own merits. Turns out it’s “dying” – but since the experiments failed, this one didn’t cost anyone $44 billion. It is something, relatively.

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