Mon 6 Jun 2022 10:00PM

Bot repost policy?

MF Mica Fisher Public Seen by 100

Hi everyone! In the Community Worker Group Ops Team, we've been discussing the issue of bots that automatically post tweets and retweets to the instance. We've noticed that bots that post retweets really clog up the timeline in particular.

Right now we don't have any policies around how users should set up Twitter to Mastodon bots. Should we have a policy that limits bots to posting tweets (i.e. does not allow retweets)? I'll wait for some comments before opening a full proposal.


Flancian Mon 6 Jun 2022 10:09PM

Ahoy! Do we have examples of such bots?

I thought that nobody was running bots in social.coop; I run mine in a different instance (botsin.space). Under which conditions do they post? Are they fully automatic or responding to user commands?


Flancian Mon 6 Jun 2022 10:13PM

On rereading I now noticed you wrote "Twitter to Mastodon bots". Is this about crossposting? If so, I have to ask: is my account an example of the issue you have in mind? :)

I've gotten comments in the past about my posting volume so I thought I'd ask. Note all my posts are written by me currently, no bots are involved ;) I just use Mastodon/Twitter to write interchangeably and occasionally boost posts in both directions, partly to strengthen ties between networks.


Sam Whited Mon 6 Jun 2022 10:13PM

I'm torn on this. On the one hand, I don't think using Mastodon just as a mirror for Twitter is super helpful or builds an engaged community. On the other hand, that doesn't mean the users posts and retweets aren't useful and don't themselves contribute useful news or start useful discussions.

I lean towards just saying "Twitter mirroring is banned, we are a co-op and that means engaging with the co-op, there are other instances that are made for passive bots", but I'm open to either way if others have arguments for/against.


Flancian Mon 6 Jun 2022 10:17PM

Makes sense -- but in which terms do we think Twitter mirroring should be banned? I cross-post from Twitter to Mastodon a lot and (importantly, I think) also from Mastodon to Twitter. How I see it is that I essentially use whichever client I have at hand to write to the Fediverse, and that client is sometimes Twitter. I personally think this usage should be fine -- after all, why should we care which piece of software a user was holding when they posted to the Fediverse?

All in all, I think we should not conflate 'people who cross post a lot' with 'people who just back up their Twitter accounts to the Fediverse and never interact'.

Also, I would recommend we do not call these bots. Cross posting in general is done by a bridge on behalf and for a human user.


jonny Mon 6 Jun 2022 11:54PM

I agree there is a fuzzy distinction to be made between people whose masto accounts are just on autoplay and don't interact, but I don't feel comfortable setting some minimum threshold like "you have to respond to x% of things on masto" because maybe that person is just very shy!? That to me is something better handled by having (very common!) coop norms about community engagement generally.

I also think anyone who took half a second to look at what you do @Flancian would see that the way you bridge platforms is decidedly not just park and forget ;P


Giacomo Mon 6 Jun 2022 10:33PM

I would leave maximum freedom to users. If I don't like bots I can simply ignore them


Boris Mann Mon 6 Jun 2022 10:43PM

I also run a number of different tools (not bots) to post from my micro blog and from Twitter, and vice versa.

I joined and am a member of the co-op because I want to have my personal account here in a server and social space that is jointly managed.

And, of course, because it’s part of the fediverse, so I’m not just engaging locally.

I’ve had feedback / likes / boosts of things I cross post from Twitter. If people don’t want to follow my account, they don’t have to. Or can give me direct feedback if they want.

Running software to power my personal account should be allowed.


jonny Mon 6 Jun 2022 11:47PM

Thanks for raising this, I think it's definitely an important norm to discuss openly.

I feel relatively strongly that crossposting is an important part of transitioning people from twitter et al. to fediverse/other alternatives. It's a lot to ask most people to change patterns of use that they may have had for many years, and so allowing people a longer period of transition by crossposting is a very important way to lower barriers of access to people who are fedi-curious but not yet diehard ideologues.

That opinion is informed, in turn, by my belief that while fedi is definitely a refuge from the corporate internet, we shouldn't be seeking to make a walled garden where we simply don't interact with it. In my view, if we want to stand a chance at making a real dent in corporate dominance, we need to do everything we can to make regular contact with curious people, make it as easy as possible to transition, and broadly show the good that a free internet can do!

The notion of identity on the internet is complicated, and I am personally someone who has dozens of different 'identities' on different media (as I know many of us are). My social.coop identity is explicitly linked to my real name twitter, but even then I use a crosspost exclusion marker (toots/tweets with !/ in them are not crossposted) because I know I have different friends and represent myself differently on either side. So I don't think it's even true to say that crossposting is always a "neutral" means of mirroring an account across platforms -- at least in my experience it's another means of exploring the possibilities of what 'online identity' looks like.

I agree with the distinction in the OP between crossposting text posts that are functionally equivalent across mediums, and retweets/quote tweets that require someone to interact with another platform to view them. I personally don't have retweets/boosts crossposted (except QTs which i have wanted to turn off but have been sorta lazy about) because imo it's sort of cringe, but don't want to dismiss those that do. I also see it as valid for people who do want to completely wall themselves off from the corporate internet to be able to.

Maybe one suggestion would be that any crossposts that aren't strictly identical across platforms, or otherwise require interaction with other platforms have some standard string in them that people who don't want to see them can filter? Having a single one articulated in the instance norms might make it easier for people who don't want to see them than everyone doing xposting having some different tag.


jonny Mon 6 Jun 2022 11:50PM

Another thing that's been brought up to me by people who don't like crossposting is that it might be nice to automatically rewrite twitter links to nitter links? Just wanted to put that on the table as another option


Ed Summers Wed 8 Jun 2022 9:47PM

Thanks for asking the question here @Mica Fisher. I agree w/ @jonny that there is a meaningful distinction to be made between people who "park and forget" and people who repurpose content across networks, and meaningfully engage in the Fediverse. I personally tend to not follow accounts, even if they are from people I would really like to hear from, when they are simply mirroring engagement from Twitter. A big reason why I left Twitter was because of the types of discourse that happen on there, and I don't really like seeing it seep into my view of the Fediverse. But I feel like this is a personal preference, and one that I have agency to control by who I follow, block, etc. I'm not sure it makes sense for there to be coop policy on this, unless there is some kind of abusive behavior going on.


benjamin melançon Fri 10 Jun 2022 4:54PM

Would it be possible to have an individual option to hide bots from the local timeline? I would like to do that. And by bot i mean any automatic posting, the stuff currently labeled with bot (which i think people may have to do manually).

And off-topic but maybe we can do a thread or topic on tools for cross-posting? I'd love to know more.


Sam Whited Sat 11 Jun 2022 12:52PM

I think you can already do this (more or less) with filters (by filtering on the #bot hash tag). We could have a rule that all bots must use this tag in their profile if we wanted too (I think many instances already enforce this).


benjamin melançon Sat 11 Jun 2022 4:48PM

That is not an option on the Local timeline itself it seems?

I am far from expert in Mastodon setup but i don't see that i would be able to filter out bots on the local timeline but not from followed.

I would expect bots not to be on the "Local timeline" by default, but that i could still follow them.

But anyhow, yeah, if Mastodon does not have an option social.coop won't be able to do it!


brainwane Thu 17 Nov 2022 9:10PM

It's now a few months later so I'd like to revisit this. Is there a way for me, as an individual user of our Mastodon instance, to pre-emptively mute local accounts that have the "bot" label in their profile? Or, is that a feature that (if we coded it) would likely make it into mainline Mastodon, or could it be a local patch that is easy to maintain?


Flancian Thu 17 Nov 2022 9:50PM

Ahoy there! Which accounts on social.coop ( http://social.coop ) have a bot label? (will check later if the admin interface shows this, just wondering currently.)

https://github.com/mastodon/mastodon/issues/12322 seems related; IIUC it doesn't seem like too hard a contribution if someone in the community is interested.


brainwane Thu 17 Nov 2022 9:52PM

Not sure it's ok to mention publicly here in Loomio, but I will private message you


Antoine-Frédéric Raquin Sun 12 Jun 2022 9:56PM

I'm all with interoperability because as many of us know, it lowers switching costs. Then I would like to make a distinction between having a bridge where Tusky and Twidere X would be interchangeable clients, and just keeping a puppet account here, which merely seems disrespectful towards our efforts to build an intentional community.

I've noticed that Twitter watched closely the features being implemented in Mastodon to avoid or minimize large-scale migrations, i.e. raising the characters limit to 280 characters, allowing post edition, but also the features making the Fediverse safer than Twitter. OOT but an example could be to let moderation accounts follow other instances' moderation – i.e., knowing which instances are being blocked by the ones we follow. On bridges, one could treat first lines in tweets beginning with CW: as the content warning field, simultaneously fixing an issue we all have somehow and advertising for this specific ActivityPub field.

The GoToSocial developers seem to pay attention to the community demands according to their constrained resources and although they don't offer an official web frontend, we could (I don't mean we should) use Pinafore for that, but my main point is that other sorts of features that Twitter couldn't copy, e.g. Jonny's suggestion of arbitrary custom sorting algorithms, should probably be easier to implement with GTS, instead of cargo-culting the Mastodon changelog.


Luke Martell Fri 18 Nov 2022 8:14AM

I'd say allow it for now as it helps people transition from twitter. It may be solved in time if twitter closes.