Disclosure of my affiliations: I am involved in this topic both personally, as a long-term user and supporter of KDE, and as representative of Teckids, the free-software youth organisation. For understanding the issue, I kindly ask you to separate the two roles when reading.
tl;dr On the Fediverse, the de facto default home for many groups and projects around KDE is floss.social. In the mid of of 2023, after a personal disagreement between me and Michael Downey, the owner of floss.social, the Teckids community got cut off from floss.social, although being otherwise uninvolved in the disagreement. In the course, Downey and/or other floss.social admins displayed immense misconduct.
I will not add screenshots publicly here, but will send them to anyone reasonably involved on request. I also cannot link to the relevant Fediverse posts because Discourse won’t let me add enough links due to limitations for new users.
To better understand what happened, and in order to separate my dispassionate concerns, I will explain the personal disagreement and the actions that followed separately. The first part is only relevant to understand the history, the relevant part for KDE is the second part.
In July, 2023, Downey criticised Eugen Rochko, lead developer of Mastodon, for implementing hCaptcha support in Mastodon. He argued that enabling hCaptcha for registrations would require loading external resources without consent, as users would only accept privacy terms when sending the registration. I fully agree with this argument.
Later, in early August, I (still being a user of floss.social at this time) discovered that floss.social’s website loaded external resources prior to registration and login, and asked Downey to remove it due to privacy concerns. He refused, and argued that loading external resources were both ethically ok and in line with user respect, and also covered and allowed by GDPR. I fully disagree with this argument, and it directly contradicts Downey’s own argumentation against Eugen Rochko.
After the personal disagreement, my account on floss.social got temporarily put on hold. My account was still visible at this point, and I was able to migrate it using Mastodon’s built-in instance migration. I migrated my account to the new instance of our organisation Teckids.
From there, I announced that I had migrated my account, and referred to the reasons why this happened.
In response, Downey and/or his team performed the following actions:
- My own account on floss.social got permanently locked and made invisible
- All accounts containing the word “Teckids” in their bio got permanently locked without prior notice, including a ban on account migration, these accounts were forced to give up their entire social network without any grace period, even though neitehr these accounts nor Teckids itself were in any way involved in the disagreement
- The Teckids instance got defederated from floss.social
At that point, I sent a direct e-mail to Downey and the team, apologizing for any failure to uphold their community standards, although confirming my general attitude towards the topic wedisagreed over. I agreed that the block on my own account was probably ok from the point of view of Downey, but asked him to let other users leave the instance without huge collateral damage to their social connections by lifting the ban on their accounts to a state where they can at least initiate a migration.
My mail was ignored, but in the course of time, I later found that:
- floss.social was made completely inaccessible from random IP networks that I used to access my account over the period of several months, including otherwise uninvolved parties like Linuxhotel and the external address space of a coffee shop chain I visit every few weeks, but neither used during the disagreement nor in adjacent days or so. I conclude that Downey must have abused his administrative powers to analyze web server access logs with the intention to cause more collateral damage
KDE is one of the most important and valuable projects for the free software ecosystem in general, and for the Teckids community in particular. People affiliated with us work with educational institutions, and regularly deploy KDE software there. We also promote KDE software at meetups and during workshops at free software conferences.
Currently, we can use our organizational account on bildung.social to interact with KDE groups, but individuals who found refuge on our new community instance are cut off from KDE.
We would very much like to be able to fully interact with KDE groups on the Fediverse again, but I feel we have exhausted everything we can do.
The problem is a bit bigger than one might think because Teckids is working with people younger than 16 years, who are not allowed on most instances. As far as we are informed, floss.social and our own instance are the only instances allowing people younger than 16 years on the Fediverse, apart from self-hosted ones (which is not feasible for everyone).
Therefore, in the name of the Teckids community, I would like to appeal that:
- KDE groups who are on floss.social contact the admins there to ask for clarification why parts of the KDE community are cut off, and what can be done about it
- KDE groups assess for themselves the conduct of teh floss.social admins and potentially decide to migrate to another isntance, e.g. KDE’s own instance or Fosstodon
For clarification: I do not ask this for myself. If my own personal Fediverse account, instead of our whole instance, remains banned on floss.social, I will be sad to still not be able to interact with people there, but this shall not concern others at that point.