The BBC has launched its own “experimental” Mastodon server, marking one of the first major news outlets to establish an instance on the Twitter alternative. You can access the server at social.bbc, which encompasses posts from a handful of BBC accounts, including BBC Radio 4, BBC Taster, BBC Research & Development, and a few more.
The BBC says the outlet will try out the server for six months before it decides “whether and how to continue.” While you can’t actually create accounts or posts on the server, you can still leave replies from the instance that you’re using, as well as follow its accounts.
Despite this, the BBC still has some concerns about content moderation, as Mastodon doesn’t have a dedicated moderation team and leaves it up to individual servers instead. This means the BBC won’t have any control over what people say in their replies to its posts, but it says that’s an “acceptable risk.”
“We aim to learn how much value it has provided and how much work and cost is involved”
This hands-off approach to content moderation can backfire, however, as Stanford researchers recently found that Mastodon has become rife with child sexual abuse material (CSAM) due to varying moderation policies across instances.
“The principles of the Fediverse, with an emphasis on local control, quality content, and social value, are far more aligned with our public purposes than those of avowedly commercial networks like Threads or Twitter,” the BBC writes. “We aim to learn how much value it has provided and how much work and cost is involved.”
Twitter owner Elon Musk butted heads with news outlets earlier this year after Twitter started incorrectly applying “government-funded” labels to some accounts, including the BBC. In addition to the BBC, the Financial Times has also tried to move away from Twitter by establishing its own Mastodon server.
However, the Financial Times shut it down just months later, stating, “Mastodon has proved more hassle than it’s worth.” In addition to sparking legal and reputational concerns, the Financial Times says the growth of its server resulted in an “exponential effect” on its cost to maintain it. The BBC might have a much different experience, though, since it’s not allowing users to create accounts on the instance.