Europe launches its own social networks

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If you’re among the throng of Twitter die-hards who are more than a little disappointed by a certain South African billionaire’s plans to take over the social network, you may have flocked to its open-source alternative, Mastodon. . It turns out that the European Union is there with you; the European Data Protection Supervisor (or EDPS) announced this week that he would publicly pilot his own Mastodon server, dubbed Voice of the EUas a way for European institutions and agencies to speak to ordinary people.

And if Twitter isn’t your thing (and honestly, who could blame you), the EDPS indicated that he was also testing an alternative to YouTube, EU videowhich is based on the open source PeerTube platform.

Together, these platforms are part of what is colloquially known as the “federal”; a collection of free open source alternatives to the modern social platforms we know and hate. These include services such as Pixelfed (essentially fedivers-Instagram), and Funkwhale (the fediverse-Spotify), in addition to the platforms the EU has already jumped on.

Whether the EDPS will dive into these platforms remains to be seen, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a shock. European officials have been tussling with US tech companies for about the last decadeand local lawmakers continue to exercise careful scrutiny over these businesses shoddy privacy practices and content moderation issue.

“With the pilot launch of EU Voice and EU Video, we aim to offer alternative social media platforms that put individuals and their rights to privacy and data protection first,” noted Wojciech Wiewiórowski, Controller European data protection in a press release.

“There are no ads on the platforms; and there is no profiling of people likely to use the platforms. These and other measures give individuals choice and control over how their personal data is used.

This all sounds good in theory – after all, Twitter is a hellish landscape filled with ads, and YouTube’s parent company Google is still a privacy nightmare. But for something like EU Voice or EU Video to take off, the Commission will have to attract a good part of its over a million supporters on the other side. And although Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko reported an influx of dozens of thousands new users following the Elon Musk news, which still leaves some stuck in the Twitter vortex.

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