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Diaspora: we can't stop spread of beheading videos

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By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 21 Aug 2014 at 14:34

Alternative social-network Diaspora can't ban videos posted by terror groups, because it's decentralised system is working exactly how it's designed to.

Diaspora is an open-source social network; users set up their own "pod" to host and share data and messages, meaning the network itself is spread across many small, independently held servers.

That means it's difficult if not impossible for the team that runs Diaspora to perfectly censor any material - and now Islamic State members are taking advantage of that to share graphic materials, which are being taken down by other social networks. Twitter said yesterday it would ban any user that posted the video showing the murder of journalist James Foley.

Anyone is able to use Diaspora's software in any way they choose

The way Diaspora is designed means it can't ban any material across the entire platform - the lack of central control protects against censorship, but also makes it "difficult to act swiftly when there is inappropriate activity on the network", the project team said.

"There is no central server, and there is therefore no way for the project's core team to manipulate or remove contents from a particular node in the network (which we call a 'pod')," the lead development team posted on the Diaspora blog. "This may be one of the reasons which attracted IS activists to our network."

The Diaspora project team said it's "concerned about the activities of these members inside our network", but noted that as a free and open-source project, "anyone is able to use Diaspora's software in any way they choose".

"We cannot therefore prevent anyone from using the software; we are also not able to influence the decisions of podmins," the administrators who run each node, the post added.

Diaspora has a report function that goes to the specific "podmins", but that relies on user reports and means the administrator of each node needs to be individually contacted.

To help, the project team is organising an account clean up. "However, because this is such a crucial issue, we have also accumulated a list of accounts related to IS fighters, which are spread over a large number of pods, and we are in the process of talking to the podmins of those pods," the post says. "So far, all of the larger pods have removed the IS-related accounts and posts."

However, if IS decides to set up its own Diaspora pod, there's little the project team can do. "We will continue our efforts to talk with the podmins, but we want to emphasise once again that the project's core team is not able to decide what podmins should do."

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User comments


You can't have a system designed to prevent censorship and then complain when it works.

No censorship means you sometimes have to face stuff you don't like.

Hopefully some Podmins won't give in to the blatant hypocrisy on display here.

By omnisvalidus on 21 Aug 2014

Who cares

IS are getting more publicity from attempts to ban the video than they would if people just ignored it. If the government wants to stop people being radicalised, then tackling the causes of the disaffection may well be more productive.

By tirons1 on 21 Aug 2014

Nice to see...

something that stops censorship working properly. I agree with @tirons1 IS are getting way too much publicity because of attempts to ban the video, and huge amounts of media attention

By mrmiley on 22 Aug 2014

Terrorist Cells

I think I am correct in thinking that the way Diaspora is setup, with no central command and everyone working in individual cells, is just the way terrorist organisations work. So I guess it is no surprise that certain organisations are drawn to them. however, I do agree with previous comments in that, there is far too much censorship in a supposed liberal, dare I say free, states like the UK, the rest of Europe & the US. So it is nice to see something that doesn't just bend to the will of a Govt just because they are pressured into it. I must say that I find the video, and others like it, incredibly despicable but that is the price of freedom.

By TonyManeiro on 22 Aug 2014

The irony of Islamic State using a site called Diaspora.

By martindaler on 22 Aug 2014


We still live in a society, not an anarchy. Society demands some norms, some boundaries. It is very romantic to believe in total unqualified freedom, but paradoxically that is a self-contradictory concept. Freedom demands its own discipline.

This time it is an organisation posting sickening violence. Next time it could be others posting child abuse. Or any other genre which society demands be outside of its acceptable limits. Do we then celebrate that fact?

By martindaler on 22 Aug 2014

Stop calling them "Islamic State" for a start...

As others have suggested, you can't "censor" these fascists out of existence.
Irrespective of how you feel about "Freedom of Speech", "Liberty" etc. It is realistically nearly impossible to stop the flow of material around the system without very heavy-handed centralised controls, like in China or Russia. Even these are relatively easily circumvented.

It is more important, in my view, to stop validating these Terrorists' delusional aspirations at "Statehood" by refusing to call them "Islamic State", OR EVEN "Jihadis", both of which confer a spurious legitimacy on gangs of armed thugs.
Instead we (as in the "Media") should be calling them "Terrorists", "Murderers" or "Extremists" as appropriate.

Every time our media conflates "Islamic" with these kinds of terrorism through the use of "IS" etc., they alienate the vast majority of Muslims.
At the same time these usages encourage and massage the self-regarding egoism of the terrorists.

By wittgenfrog on 22 Aug 2014


This is 'all' about Syria, which I have been saying for weeks. The Zionist mobsters were frothing at the mouth a while back trying to get rid of Assad. They failed, but they just don't give up. Lo and behold, some months later this Islamic State propaganda (North Iraq/South Syria) is fed to us through our TV's. The Zionists have been securing puppets all over Iraq for the last decade. Some of the Sunnis they control were probably encouraged to start an uprising and government forces were then ordered to retreat and let them take territory. They then 'branded' the whole thing as this ISIS garbage and pumped it to us through the heavily controlled mass media.

I also saw that the BBC now equivocally claims that Assad 'did', not maybe did, attack his own people with chemical weapons. :-0 No evidence was ever presented to support this allegation. Look at this way. They lined up Afghanistan and went in. They lined up Iraq and went in. They lined up Libya and went in. They then said if Assad ever used chemical weapons on his own people it would be a 'game changer' and would go in. Assad then 'supposedly' kills some kids with chemical weapons a couple of weeks later, with no gain for his regime. Err, ok... It's Playschoolesque news for little kiddies.

I am warning all of you that what is left of our 'democracy', not that we had much anyway, is in great danger. Just the other day, on the news, the message was 'the politicians need to keep us safe'. No, that's blatant double talk for removing more of our civil liberties. As I always say, it's totally useless for anyone to blindly believe what I believe. Please just look into it all and think about it.

Some food for thought:

By adolfobama on 23 Aug 2014

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