Death threats, doxxing, and transphobia: meet Nivenly, the AI art foundation aiming to police Mastodon

CW: Ableism, Anti-Blackness, Antisemitism, Child Sexual Abuse Material, Death threats, Harassment, Misogyny, Nazis, Queerphobia, Pedophilia, Racism, Transphobia, Zoophilia.

"I'll see you in real life. I know people in Austin that'll get me your info. I'm in Austin on a yearly basis. I don't know who tf you think you're talking to, but you'll pay for how you're treating me. Offline. Period."

This is how a Mastodon user from the server replied to criticism of The Bad Space, the blocklist the Nivenly foundation aims to implement into Mastodon via their Federation Safety Enhancement Project (FSEP).

The Bad Space has recently faced criticism for accusing a significant amount of queer-run Mastodon servers of "Hate speech" and "Poor moderation", without explanation or proof, focusing particularly on accusing servers run by transgender women.

Proponents of Nivenly's FSEP consider that criticism of the Bad Space is done in bad faith, and part of a racist campaign of targeted harassment weaponizing fabricated grievances about non-issues.

How did we get to the point a blocklist causes people to issue death threats on Mastodon? To understand this, we'll need to step back, and take a broader look at the context and key players.

Mastodon, ActivityPub, and the Fediverse

For a normal user, Mastodon is just an app just like Twitter, but with fewer billionaires in charge. One oddity of Mastodon is that you must pick a server to get started, just like email. And much like email, not every message gets delivered: spam and hate speech are filtered out by properly configured servers. But unlike email, many servers won't let you talk to some of your friends, even if your friends never send spam or hate speech. That's just how it is: no Mastodon server can reach 100% of the network, due to server blocks, called defederation.

For the technical user, Mastodon is not just an app in their browser or phone, but also a server: an open-source ActivityPub implementation of microblogging.
ActivityPub is an open protocol that Mastodon servers use to talk to each other, and they share this protocol with other compatible servers such as Peertube, Honk, Bookwyrm, Kbin, and many more. The network of services communicating with ActivityPub is called the Federated Universe, or Fediverse.

In colloquial usage, popular alternative compatible servers such as GoToSocial, Firefish, or Akkoma, are just called Mastodon servers, even if they run different software under the hood.

Mastodon's game of whack-a-nazi

Mastodon is open-source: anyone is free to download and install it on their server, and immediately join the federation. This allows people to set up small communities centered around a specific thing: being German, enjoying tabletop games, being gay, using the Ruby programming language... Or being a neo-nazi.

Understandably, nobody is eager to rub elbows with neo-nazis. Or pedophiles (yes, of course we also have those).

So Mastodon lets server operators block domain names: for example, can decide to block, and on infosec's about page, you would be able to see in their list of blocked servers. They can add a reason to explain their block, though in this case, it would be self-explanatory enough they might not bother to explain. After implementing that block, would no longer be able to talk to, but would still be able to talk to Mastodon servers that didn't block them.

Note: the domain leads to a harmless anti-nazi blog, we picked it in our example to avoid mentioning any actual neo-nazi site.

Mastodon and Akkoma servers make it optional to publicly share your server's blocklist, and many enable the option. It gives new admins an easy way to corroborate information about the worst offenders: a dozen servers cause the bulk of the damage, and you quickly learn their name.

Mastodon blocks are based on domain names, rather than other possible signatures (such as IP addresses). A domain name like must be rented from a registrar such as Namecheap on a yearly basis. It generally costs $12 per year: it is affordable to rent a handful of domain names, but not to hoard them.

You can migrate your domain from a registrar to another, but few people do, as they all substantially offer the same services for the same price. So while $12 is the average yearly price, many registrars will give you a big discount for the first year: instead of charging $12, they will charge $2, knowing you are likely to remain with them for many years.
This can be used to rotate throwaway identities for Mastodon harassment on a budget: in addition to the established nazi hangouts, you have some small nazi servers doing hit and run operations under temporary names.

How defederation works

From the perspective of an administrator, severing ties from bad actors such as nazis is a good thing: they are protecting you by pruning your social graph of rotten apples.

From your perspective, when a connection between Mastodon servers is severed by deliberate defederation on the part of an administrator, you lose unilateral and mutual follow relationships without any notification. Depending on the software, they may or may not still appear in your follow list, but you will no longer receive their posts, nor will they see yours anymore, as if you had just stopped posting one day.
If federation is restored on the servers, you won't be notified of that fact either, and you will still have to re-follow each other.

While this will not endanger your deeper friendships with people you know offline, or whom you have added on multiple apps, a poorly decided defederation will be fatal to lighter, budding friendships, where you only have the occasional light interaction on Mastodon.

This is why one of the most important aspects of Mastodon is that you must have perfect faith into your administrator: any wrong decision of their part, and your friends disappear.

Community self-regulation with #Fediblock

Due to the necessity of identifying hit-and-run neo-nazi servers and similar undesirables, the #Fediblock hashtag is used to federate information about bad actors between servers.

For example, in this #Fediblock recommendation ๐Ÿ’พ, the administrator of, a Mastodon server of 65 users focused on providing a queer safe space, suggests the defederation of a pedophilic server, providing verifiable evidence it intentionally harbors pedophiles.

Note: Links marked with a ๐Ÿ’พ diskette emoji lead to archive snapshots, made with the independent service We provide archives for links at risk of being deleted or modified. In some instances, Mastodon posts in archive links will not render properly, nevertheless, their full contents will remain in the HTML source code.

#Fediblock recommendations are not simply made about servers, but also against individual users who should be blocked, as it is possible for a Mastodon administrator to block a single remote user instance-wide.
For example, in this #Fediblock recommendation๐Ÿ’พ, we can see the administrator of Rage.Love, a Mastodon server of 61 users focusing on community standards and part of the Fediverse Council, suggesting that developer Aral Balkan should be barred from the Fediverse due to his being "a massive tool" and his having compared Elon Musk's Twitter to a nazi bar.'s admin account frequently issues such #Fediblock recommendations: in the month of September 2023, they recommended over 20 blocks. Other members of the Fediverse Council also frequently recommend blocks.

Many suggestions made on the #Fediblock hashtag do not concern a server, but a single user, for various reasons, such as nazism, pedophilia, racism, involvement in cryptocurrency, centrism, queerphobia, association with known bad actors, and so on.

While Mastodon allows you to subscribe to a hashtag, due to single user reports being acceptable on this hashtag, a large amount of #Fediblock recommendations are suggested every day. Thus, there are additional tools and volunteers streamlining the #Fediblock process.

The "Fediblock, deduped" account on used to curate dozens of block suggestions every day.

A significant portion of #Fediblock suggestions made on this account were "self-reports": people who use the #Fediblock hashtag incorrectly (for example, as a joke, or for criticism) become the object of a #Fediblock recommendation themselves, as it makes it more difficult for #Fediblock volunteers to sort through the large volume of #Fediblock recommendations to keep the federation safe.

For example, in January 2023, the Mastodon server of 309 users, describing itself as an "unstoppable shitposting engine", was recommended for #Fediblock due its users posting jokes in the #Fediblock hashtag๐Ÿ’พ, to protest the harassment of queer users in the #Fediblock hashtag, who were issued a #Fediblock recommendation for creating a #Fediblock-related project but failing to properly credit the creator of the #Fediblock hashtag. Criticism of #Fediblock conversations is not allowable in the #Fediblock hashtag, and must be posted in the hashtag #Fediblockmeta instead.
The admin of, @killeveryhetero, refused to take disciplinary action on users who failed to follow the rules of the hashtag๐Ÿ’พ, calling the rule-infringing posts "funny", and comparing the effectiveness of the #Fediblock hashtag to "trying to hammer a nail with a hotdog".
Since then, servers have been recommended to #Fediblock for federating with, as they are now a known bad actor.

The "Fediblock, deduped" account recently shared a block suggestion๐Ÿ’พ issued towards, a Mastodon server of 6800 users for artists, and a server member of the Fediverse Council and Fedimin.
The administrator of, @WelshPixie, threatened to defederate from unless the moderator in charge of "Fediblock, deduped" stepped down for having reposted a #Fediblock suggestion against The moderator of complied, and left Mastodon altogether๐Ÿ’พ.

Nevertheless, defederated anyway๐Ÿ’พ , for "Centrism harmful to marginalized communities", which severed follow relationships for most users on

The administrator of, a Mastodon server of 26 users, made a #Fediblock recommendation for artisan.chat๐Ÿ’พ for antisemitic behavior in the Fedimin discord server of Mastodon administrators. Receipts were withheld from the #Fediblock suggestion: it is always acceptable for trustworthy members of the Fediverse Council to refuse to disclose evidence, for example to protect marginalized people at risk of harassment.

Note: When browsing the provided archive link, you will need to inspect the HTML source to see the text of the post, due to having technical difficulties serving posts. has ceased activity due to administrator burnout, and will shut down in December 2023๐Ÿ’พ . has lost most of its activity due to defederation from, and is now seeking a successor to take over the entire server๐Ÿ’พ.

Who are Nivenly?

Nivenly is a foundation focused on four projects:

Who are IFTAS?

The Independent Federated Trust and Safety group is comprised of people involved in content moderation for Bluesky and Mastodon, primarily involved in tech companies such as Oracle. Membership fees are not disclosed, but are paid on a sliding scale depending on your means. Two members of the Fediverse Council are involved in its governance: Jaz-Michael King and Jayne Samuel-Walker, both part of the Mastodon server, part of the Fediverse council. They were involved in the FSEP proposal.

Who are the Fediverse Council and Fedimin?

The Fedi Council๐Ÿ’พ is a group of trusted servers overseeing content moderation, organized by by, a Mastodon server of 10 users, describing itself as a "mighty band of warrior-poet oliphants" and an active participant in the #Fediblock hashtag.

The council is comprised of trusted servers putting their blocklists in common, and compiled blocklists, from Tier 0 to Tier 3 of severity, drawing from trusted sources such as,,,, or

The Fedi Council has gone by multiple informal names, sometimes due to tensions between the different members - for example,, a Mastodon server of 566 users about unionizing and labor rights, was recently apologizing about its racism.

A group with a significant overlap in participants is Fedimins, a private discord for Mastodon administrators hosted by WelshPixie, the administrator of, from which was recently removed for antisemitism and centrism.

Transgender political blogger Nina Illingworth likes to nickname things, and calls the Fediverse Council the "HOA" instead (Homeowner Associations being frequently perceived as meddling in trifling matters).
Nina Illingworth was on the flagship Mastodon server,, which has 279,000 users, and faced a fair amount of harassment there, due to her radical leftist posts and abrasive personality.
She was personally invited by the administrator of to take advantage of its Safe Harbor๐Ÿ’พ policy, requiring acceptance of's Fair Speech Policy๐Ÿ’พ.

After spending some time as a user of, a moderator who recently joined the moderation team, WelshPixie, who is also the administrator of, asked Nina Illingworth to remove the words "Pig Empire" from her posts, arguing it was an antisemitic dog whistle.
Nina Illingworth argued that she has used the catchphrase for years to refer to the United States and its allies, as evidenced by her archive of blog posts on topics such as anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, anti-fascism, anarchism, and so forth.

The administrator of joined in the accusations, accusing her of anti-Indigenous sentiment. However, the accusations were fabricated, and Nina Illingworth forced the administrator of to retract the accusations. She details all of this in a series of posts that exculpate her๐Ÿ’พ on her new Mastodon server,, which she said has excellent moderation against harassment, despite being a known bad actor for spamming the #Fediblock hashtag, as previously mentioned.

She is not the only person to regard the Fediverse Council as self-appointed cops: due to the provocative statements of its participants, this sentiment is common, but rarely expressed in public.
For example, in a recent post, we can see the administrator of, who is also a moderator on, comparing the expression "protect trans women" to the fourteen words๐Ÿ’พ, a neo-nazi slogan considered hate speech by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
As is a trusted #Fediblock participant from the Fediverse Council, most know to avoid confronting its administrator.

The tensions were particularly high when, a Mastodon server of 4100 users for the LGBTQIA+ community, apologized for its racism. Despite having profusely apologized to,, and, will soon be defederated from, which has given's users a short notice to migrate their accounts away from their home server.

In a recent incident, a white supremacist joined, gained favor with the administrator by using social justice language, and encouraged her to repost a context-free list of Patreon and Ko-Fi links of queer Mastodon users to mass-report to target their finances, under pretext of racism.

Note: you will need to inspect the HTML source to see the ko-fi and patreon URLs, due to not being able to expand posts with a content warning, and the original post having been deleted.

The administrator of reposted it, after which, the white supremacist gloated about his stunt๐Ÿ’พ (CW: Highly bigoted language, including racist slurs and ableist language). However, the administrator of, WelshPixie, mentioned it was not a problem๐Ÿ’พ, because the targets chosen appeared guilty of racism.

Given the ease with which this white supremacist could infiltrate the Fediverse Council, we suspect there are additional far-right agitators active on the Mastodon network, deliberately exacerbating the current tensions by weaponizing social justice language, for their own amusement.

Why was Nivenly's FSEP accused of transphobia?

In September 2023, The Good Space published anonymously an exposรฉ of the contents of FSEP's blocklist, showing the following:

Roland Pulliam, the author of the Bad Space blocklist and of the FSEP project to build it into Mastodon, stated he has faced racist harassment from the white queer community. He previously stated that he often cannot differentiate between conservative white men and white trans women due to their racism.
He explained the systematic presence of the "hate speech" tags on every queer server was due to a bug allowed to stay in production for a few months, and that the Bad Space blocklist is compiled from various sources representing the consensus of the Fediverse Council.

Due to the ongoing campaign of harassment he deplores, we have chosen to refrain from providing live or archived links to the specific posts we are referring to, to avoid exacerbating the problem.

We believe Roland Pulliam has acted as a lightning rod for criticism due to his brash personality, and that his role must be de-emphasized.
It is Nivenly that should have been criticized, rather than a lone public figure allowed to take the focus while Nivenly maintains radio silence. Nivenly should have taken over the conversation, de-escalated it, and addressed in good faith the concerns of the queer community.

We wish to broaden the conversation to hold accountable those who find it convenient to scapegoat a single Black person for transphobia on Mastodon, and also convenient to scapegoat the queer community as responsible for anti-Black abuse on Mastodon.

Blocklists being misused isn't unique to Mastodon

Blocklists having to contend with malicious entries is not a new phenomenon.

During the misogynistic Gamergate harassment campaign, Wil Wheaton strongly promoted a Twitter blocklist created by Randi Harper. Randi Harper was both a vocal opponent of Gamergate, and a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist: the blocklist was primarily comprised of Gamergaters, the proto Alt-Right, but also included a large amount of trans women who were not involved with Gamergate in any capacity, or who had been themselves victimized by Gamergate harassment. The blocklist has been particularly damaging to the career of trans women involved in indie games.
Wil Wheaton was not particularly graceful about the incident, and retired from social media a few years later, claiming to have faced bad faith harassment from trans women.

How does it tie into AI art?

Along with its Mastodon server,, one of Nivenly's four operations is a distributed AI art product called AI Horde, also operating under the name Haidra. Volunteers provide their computing resources to join a distributed cluster running inference using Stable Diffusion (image synthesis) and KoboldAI (language model), for others to use anonymously. It enables people who do not own a gaming computer with a powerful GPU to borrow compute from the Horde of volunteers.

Its minimal safety guardrails, focusing only on photorealistic child sexual abuse material in Stable Diffusion๐Ÿ’พ, makes its KoboldAI Horde the free cloud option recommended by 4chan for fully uncensored interactive text porn (CW: Link contains textual depictions of rape, zoophilia, images sexualizing prepubescent children, and much more upsetting AI-assisted text and images if you follow the links on the page).

Skepticism and hostility towards generative AI are the prevailing sentiments on Mastodon.
Image generation software such as Stable Diffusion produce mediocre plagiarism of the work of artists, yet replaces artists when mediocrity is good enough.
Large language models such as ChatGPT are responsible for the spread of unprecedented levels of misinformation: language models do not know any facts about the world, they simply know which words are statistically plausible. They are trained on Internet hate, fed back their own output, then patched with anti-bigotry "guardrails" often easily jailbroken by copy-pasting the correct prompt. proudly says it does not tolerate AI or NFTs (AI and Crypto are often associated, as NFT peddlers embraced AI art careers.) is by far the most visible proponent of FSEP, and to that end, will happily work with a foundation that promotes AI art, entirely unbeknownst to the real artists it hosts, who have universally seen their commission revenues dwindling due to AI art.

But that's not the only contradiction about Nivenly's AI art product: the creator of AI Horde, db0, is working on a Mastodon blocklist named Feediseer.
We can say that, at least, it makes more efforts than the Bad Space to appear publicly accountable and to operate in good faith๐Ÿ’พ.
It is based on a "chain of trust" system, which despite the name does not entail any crypto (in fact, db0 has stated a blanket opposition to blockchain technology๐Ÿ’พ for the currency users trade in AI Horde). But of course, as it is described, it is vulnerable by design to vote manipulation by coordinated voting rings.
This will allow FSEP to provide two nominally different and competing blocklists, despite the fact Nivenly is involved with both of them.

We think that Nivenly supplying an AI system 4chan recommends to write uncensored child rape fantasies is entirely incompatible with being involved to any extent in Mastodon's content moderation. They should start by moderating themselves.

Doxxing, death threats: all forms of intimidation are fair game

Victor Wynne, the admin of, a small queer Mastodon server, prides himself on being highly accountable and even-handed in matters of content moderation. During conversations about Nina Illingworth's dispute with members of the Fediverse Council, he shared some polite and reasonable concerns. It resulted in people doxxing him๐Ÿ’พ, that is, posting all the personally identifiable information they could find about him, such as his phone number, which was flooded with hate.

As for the death threats, we saw them previously. The person who made those death threats later agreed with the administrator of that those threats were a joke๐Ÿ’พ making a reference to the "Navy Seals Copypasta", a 4chan meme.

The next day, the same person agreed with someone who said that more threats of violence should be issued towards "those wastes of air and space"๐Ÿ’พ (the waste of air and space in question being a trans woman commenting on the death threats issued the day prior), then accused of pedophilia๐Ÿ’พ the trans women on her server,, a queer Mastodon server, and, another queer Mastodon server. A member of the second server they accused pointed out the same person had a long history of transmisogyny on Twitter, in two separate posts containing multiple examples each: 1๐Ÿ’พ, 2๐Ÿ’พ
We have verified the existence of the posts in those screencaps by searching text excerpts along with their username using a logged in Twitter account.

Many of those conversations tagged Roland Pulliam, who didn't intervene to de-escalate.

We believe that death threats do not enhance the safety of the federation.

Manufacturing a false consensus out of sight

Nivenly uses two different brands to refer to the same product, depending on the target market: "The Bad Space" brand catches all the flak on Mastodon for its overt and provocative targeting of queer communities, while FSEP is a technical document that looks perfectly unobjectionable to tech professionals on Github.

The conversation about adding FSEP to Mastodon does not happen on Mastodon, it happens on Github, entirely unchallenged, away from the prying eyes of queer people it targets. It certainly doesn't happen on, Nivenly's Mastodon server, which advertises itself as "primarily comprised of tech industry professionals world wide".
For someone who has an account on, having a Github account is as natural as it is to have an email address or a LinkedIn page.

In the aftermath of the publication of the Good Space, many queer instances reevaluated their defederation choices, some announcing refederation and reconciliation.
The author of the Joinfediverse wiki announced having lost her trust in blocklists, and thus, removed the blocklist she was maintaining on that wiki๐Ÿ’พ.

The real consensus that is forming is that nobody can be trusted with the power to compile an authoritative list of bad people.

At the end of this article, we provide a few suggestions for less computer-experienced people who wish to participate non-disruptively to Github conversations.

How can Nivenly push FSEP despite the concerns of the queer community?

That's the big, big question, isn't it?

We hope to bring trans women who have found the last few days soul-destroying, and those who left Mastodon in the last month, a measure of comfort with our analysis: it is our belief that Nivenly's position has become incredibly weak.

Nivenly simply assumed FSEP's transphobic nature would go unnoticed and unchallenged: that the Bad Space brand would dominate the conversation, and that the aura of corporate prestige and authority in matters of content moderation they project would shield them from dealing with the controversy.

Having accused in coded language white trans women of being the primary purveyors of racism on Mastodon, rather than white people in general, and allowing death threats towards trans people in the name of their cause, will greatly weaken Nivenly's bargaining position with Mastodon gGmbH.

Mastodon is funded in good part by well-meaning donors: knowing their money could fund transphobia would upset them, forcing Mastodon gGmbH to take their concerns in consideration.

Under the circumstances, we do not believe Nivenly has substantial leverage to push FSEP, so long as its transphobic nature is common knowledge.

Moreover, the Mastodon network is much more than the official server software: competing software such as Akkoma and Firefish are gaining a lot more momentum than Mastodon, as they are considered superior alternatives by power users.
Both of these successors to Mastodon are queer-run and queer-friendly, and neither are bogged down in bureaucracy or enmeshed with American tech culture and capital.
In fact, you will find neither on Github: true to their ethos, they prefer self-hosting git themselves than giving their code to Microsoft to train its AI.

Nivenly certainly can ask nicely that Akkoma and Firefish implement FSEP. But we are strongly inclined to believe the answer Nivenly would receive would be a polite but firm "no".
We hope not to see intimidation tactics used against those queer-run projects we love.

Implementing FSEP at the client level could also happen, but would have a very limited negative impact.
The developers of Tusky, the most popular phone client for Mastodon, have said that they universally support FSEP, and a contributor who shared a perspective critical of FSEP stepped down voluntarily from the project the same day๐Ÿ’พ. (The first death threats were issued towards a queer furry who had misinterpreted the situation, assumed the contributor was one of its paid employees and forced to resign, then refused to disengage from the conversation.)

While it has been suggested that FSEP should be implemented in Tusky, nobody appears to be currently working on this task.

In any case, Tusky is not the only option for a Mastodon phone client, and because Tusky is open-source, it would be simple for a fork such as Husky to remove the blocklist, or for a new fork to quickly gain traction. As Tusky had many contributors, uses the GPL3 license, and has no contributor license agreement, they have no legal or moral standing to oppose this possibility.
It is much less friction for the end user to switch to a different phone app than it is to switch to a different Mastodon server.

Who is funding Nivenly and FSEP?

Some funding comes from 45 individual donors, 8 of whom are anonymous, who are listed on Nivenly's Github page: primarily cisgender white men working with prestigious American tech companies such as Comcast, Google, Microsoft, O'Reilly, Uber, Yelp, ZdNet, etc.

More funding comes from individual membership, via Open Collective. Nivenly's income from OpenCollective so far is $4,396.12, and was spent primarily on cloud hosting. There are 69 members paying $7 a month, plus donations that do not entitle you to membership. Their demographics appear to be similar to the Github donors: in our initial investigation, we have not found a sufficient amount of ties to hate groups or hate incidents to assume any degree of bad faith from individual donors.

The bulk of Nivenly's funding appears to come from companies who obtain trade membership: the cost to be a Nivenly trade member ranges from $7,500 to $60,000 a year depending on the amount of employees in the company.

Nivenly's corporate partners page only lists Fastly, an edge cloud platform. As Fastly has 1,112 employees, its trade membership would cost $60.000 a year. However, it is unclear if they actually have a trade membership, or are simply providing Nivenly with services gratis.
Fastly is also a corporate partner of Mastodon gGmbH, and does not appear to have a previous history of being implicated in transphobic incidents.

It is unclear whether Nivenly actually has any trade members at all.

Roland Pulliam's projects, such as FSEP, are also funded by 205 individual donors on Patreon, for a total of $1,024 a month, and by his GoFundMe, which has raised $13,120 out of a stated goal of $40,000.
Appeal from inclusion in the FSEP blocklist also requires a direct payment to his GoFundMe, but we believe that statement was meant to be provocative, rather than a genuine offer anyone took.

We believe that most of the funding for FSEP was provided by private donors directly to Roland Pulliam, and that Nivenly's finances are limited and spread thin across their four unrelated projects: they probably can neither pressure Mastodon financially, nor hire good legal representation to defend themselves from civil action they have exposed themselves to by making accusations of hate speech against queer people.

Marginalized identities are not a sufficient lens to understand the dynamics at play

Nivenly is comprised of cisgender American tech professionals with prestigious corporate careers. Those who bring up their grievances with Nivenly's project are trans women from every country who often depend on sex work and mutual aid to pay the rent and buy groceries.

In fact,, one of Nivenly's projects, explicitly forbids requests for mutual aid๐Ÿ’พ, when most queer Mastodon servers encourage mutual aid. It is a network for tech professionals: people worth six figures a year do not seek mutual aid, they raise a seed round with a venture capitalist.

This explains why it's mostly trans women who have nothing to lose who vocally condemn FSEP.
Those who have greater access to capital know it will endanger their careers to display too much solidarity, at a time new anti-trans laws are passed every day.

It creates the illusion that while, yes, many trans women oppose FSEP, it's only the most annoying, most masculine-looking, most vulgar ones, those who use anime profile pictures, those who use it/its pronouns, those who reclaim the slurs used against them, those who have to beg for $100 every month not to end up homeless. The bad ones.

The "good" trans women know how to stay out of this sort of trouble: they put on their pretty makeup and they shut the fuck up when the men are talking about important matters.
Thankfully, the good ones remain resourceful, and can still find ways to make their voices heard without endangering their careers unnecessarily.

Pitting marginalized minorities against each other is a sick, rigged game. Anyone educated in basic intersectionality will see right through the cruelty of it, and refuse to play.

Structural resilience: safety in numbers big and small

The weaponization of your friendships is not only made possible by blocklists, but by the existence of medium-sized servers, with a few thousand users: they have the power to sever a lot of social connections to make demands out of other servers, but are small enough to be run as the fiefdom of people lacking the emotional maturity to be a good steward of their community.

Our paradoxical conclusion (or you might say, our joint disagreement) is that you should either self-host, or join, Mastodon's flagship server. Avoid servers that have between 100 and 30,000 users.

You can't bully Eugen Rochko, the creator of Mastodon, and operator of, by threatening to defederate. has almost 300,000 users: it dwarfs every other server. They are simply too big to block. Being on the flagship server is the best way to avoid as many blocks as possible, at the cost of being on a slow and almost unmoderated server, but one that is not known to threaten others by weaponizing your social graph.

But hosting tiny servers is another solution. By hosting a server for yourself, or joining a like-minded group of no more than fifty users, you diminish your vulnerability to pressure: if a server you don't care for threatens to defederate unless you comply with their tantrum, your administrator can laugh to their face, instead of having to appease them.
Self-hosters wishing to connect to each other are not subject to the defederation choices of capricious admins, they are the admins.
If everyone self-hosted small servers, this situation could not happen in the first place.

When self-hosting a small server, we advise you to consider the alternatives to Mastodon: Akkoma and Firefish offer more useful and advanced features, and GoToSocial offers remarkable performance.

An aside: there is little reason to hope Bluesky will remain as safe as it currently is

Many trans women who left Mastodon this month are saying that Bluesky is much nicer and safer for trans people, even if the app is still infuriatingly crude, and even if the app is made by the exact same crypto bro billionaire who created and destroyed Twitter.
We can't refute this claim, but we think it can't last.

Keep in mind that Bluesky still requires invites to join. A few months ago, invites used to be sold for money. At the time of writing, it's very easy to acquire invites... If you know the right people. Ask in any online leftist sphere, and you'll get an invite code within a minute.
Computer literate alt-right agitators can probably acquire invites almost as easily.
But angry conservatives who don't really understand how to operate their phone? Even if Bluesky were on their radar, they would have no clue whom to ask for an invite.

What will happen once Bluesky turns on the federation, becomes more popular, and removes the invite requirements?

We can't begrudge trans women who find Bluesky safer than Mastodon right now: they are correct. But we would prefer to build healthy communities that last longer than a year or two. We would prefer to fix transphobia on Mastodon ourselves than pray the people in charge of Bluesky will keep us safe.

As much as we regret seeing the exodus of trans women from Mastodon to Bluesky, it is good for the queer community to have a foothold in both federations.

Reaching out to artists efficiently

We encourage you to politely reach out via private channels to the few artists who have yet to leave, and encourage them to be somewhere safer than a nexus of harassment that frequently weaponizes its users' friendships, and the reach of their creative work.

Most of all, you should explain why staying on greatly limits their reach: more and more of the Mastodon network is becoming unavailable to due to its administrator's petulant behavior.
A limited reach means fewer shares, and fewer sales or commissions.
If you have commissioned art in the past, be sure to point it out, but do not lie about this. It's ideal if you can show pieces you have commissioned that are similar to the work of the artist you are reaching out to.

You should also point out that it is entirely unnecessary to be on a specific server to promote yourself as an artist: nobody really cares which server you're from so long as it's federating properly. Many general-purpose servers would be very happy to host your art. Being on a big server does not mean a bigger audience, and being on a tiny (or even solo) server does not limit your reach. Being on servers unreachable from the rest of Mastodon is what limits your reach.

Be sure to also mention that when you migrate a Mastodon account, the overwhelming majority of its follow relationships in both directions are preserved. While the posting history isn't preserved, nobody really browses through people's old posts in the first place. That's why everybody welcomes an artist who periodically boosts their back catalogue. Nobody will take issue with an artist for reposting some of their old material on a new server.

When reaching out to artists on, prefer contacting them off the platform, or at least, use direct messages rather than public posts.

Never make threats or accusations under any circumstances. Do not assume guilt by association. Always work towards the artist's best interest in good faith.

Reaching out to tech professionals efficiently

We also encourage you to politely reach out via private channels to people who enable FSEP, especially if you are cisgender, as they will be much more receptive if it's a fellow cisgender person who brings up concerns of transphobia.

Do not accuse them of transphobia or threaten them over Mastodon in public, which would be extremely counterproductive. Instead, state your concerns fairly and politely in private, via LinkedIn or the email address on their professional web site. While involvement with charitable organizations is important for career growth, it should not be stated overtly, and must be discussed in more abstract terms about doing good in the world. State your concerns concisely with professional language. The shorter your message, the better it will be received. If they reply, follow up promptly, in good faith.

Participating to Github: a primer for the rest of us

As we mentioned earlier, much of the conversation about Nivenly's blocklist happens out of sight, on Github. To make sure queer voices are heard, we need to be on Github. Any other communication channel Nivenly offers (such as their silent Mastodon account or their neglected Discourse forum) is a void they can safely ignore: the court of Tech opinion is held on Github.

Here are some quick tips about operating Github efficiently:

Simple words of love for anyone hurt

We wish we could be making space to hear you right now. We had emotional discussions in the last few days with people feeling depressed, afraid, and guilty. You deserve so much better.

Pitting marginalized people against each other has a long history of plaguing leftist movements. It is meant to tear us apart and to demoralize us. Disengage immediately from anyone selling you such a poisonous narrative. Seek out those who have a strong historical and intersectional perspective. Seek out those who value charity and conflict resolution. Seek out those who understand that solidarity is never up for debate. Seek out those who insist that instead of picking sacrifices to throw under the bus, we must set fire to the bus together.

Published October 28, 2023

About the co-authors

A Blobcat emoji! Another Blobcat emoji!

Kitty A and Kitty B, the two journyalists responsible for this piece, do not particularly care to help you figure out where to send your death threats. Instead of traditionyal author biographies, please enjoy this picture of two kitties, provided by Nivenly's AI Horde:

AI-generated photo of two kitties