Software and safety
First off the bat – apologies that the software repository was down for so long! It has now been restored, and the xmsg software is available for download once again.
We’ve been working with x:talk to establish what to do next with the software. The first priority is the safety of the software system, making it so people can feel confident communicating through its channels. It’s a difficult prospect. How do we establish safety protocols in the system, including measures that x:talk can take to make sure the system is not used to listen into or harass its members? The system is simply not viable without changes, but there is a risk that we’ll end up establishing a form of centralised monitoring which could undermine the politics of the system and be used against x:talk should the system itself ever fall into the wrong hands. It’s something of a tightrope.
Measures such as restricted keywords for network names, a text activated kill switch and being able to label known users should all help to keep the network safe without undermining its ethos. We shouldn’t be blind to the politics of each measure – the privileging of certain users, the restriction of certain ‘territories’ within the system and the rhetoric of safety itself. However, we have to also view it within the wider ecology it will operate and not buy into the ideology that says a flat open network is always in all cases superior. Developing a critical and coherent approach to these issues is going to be a far greater challenge than the software development itself.