Mastodon, an open-source, self-hosted social networking service has gained popularity in India in the past few days. In fact, Mastodon was trending on Twitter India yesterday as users shared Tweets about moving to the social networking service. The service gained popularity after Twitter suspended the account of Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hedge twice. Twitter suspended Hedge’s account after flagging some tweets. Hedge and a notable chunk of users criticized Twitter for the moving. He also went on to add that he will take legal action against Twitter. This prompted the platform to issue a statement stating that it was “impartial.”

Soon after the suspension, Hedge stated that he will move to Mastodon to share his thoughts. The first time, Twitter suspended his account over a retweeted image from 1936. This image showcased August Landmesser refusing to perform the Nazi salute in Nazi Germany. Twitter stated that this image “violated its rules of ‘hateful imagery’.” The second time, Twitter suspended the account over a poem from 2017. A number of activists, journalists and other Twitter users started announcing that they were moving to Mastodon in protest of the suspension and “bias”.

Twitter users stated that Twitter was “highly inconsistent” in enforcing rules against hate speech in a BBC report. The report noted that anti-abuse, and anti-harassment system was much more effective on Mastodon. The report also noted that Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) discovered that Twitter removed about one million tweets. It also blocked about 100 accounts as part of its “country withheld” policy. CPJ stated that most of the blocked content was critical of Government policies.

What is Mastodon?

As noted previously, Mastodon is an open-source, self-hosted social networking service. The service is named after an extinct elephant-like mammal. A German software developer by the name Eugen Rochko initially released the service in October 2016. The self-hosted part ensures that the service is not run or controlled by any one single company or individual. Users create and run their own servers and the experience is completely ad-free.

Users can share text, images, videos, and URLs on Mastodon while replying to others. Each server is called as “Instance”. The instance creator can also set their own rules for their server. The service is similar to Twitter. Users can post “Tweet”-like “Toots” to share their views and opinions. However, unlike Twitter, Mastodon has a character limit of up to 500 characters for each Toot. The service arranges all toots in a chronological manner. Users can also “Boost” toots instead of retweeting them.

Users can also block, report, or mute other users. Reporting content will send the report to a moderator of the particular instance. The service has three different timelines including “Home”, “Local”, and “Federated”. “Home” limits toots from the users that one follows, “Local” from all the users in an instance and “Federated” from all the instances around. Interested users can head to mastodon.social to signup. It is also worth noting that there are no official mobile apps for the service. The website has also listed a number of third-party apps for Android, iOS, Web, Desktop, and Sailfish OS.