How does post/account privacy work on Mastodon?
Privacy controls on Mastodon are a little complex. They've been heavily tweaked in order to fit the needs of the user, meaning users have a lot of control over how their content is shared on Mastodon, as well as who is able to see it.
To start, users can set their accounts to be private or public. This setting dictates who can follow your account; a public account means that anyone can follow you, while a private account means that other users can only request to follow you. When a user requests to follow you, you have the option to allow them to follow you or to decline their follow request.
Where Mastodon differs from many other social media platforms is in that posts here have individual privacy settings. Any post, regardless of what kind of account you have, can be public or private. When a post is marked as private, only people that follow you, or that are tagged in the post itself, will be able to see the post. The "boost" button is also replaced by a padlock icon, which restricts anyone from boosting the post. Private posts are also never displayed on the local timeline, or to the "Whole Known Network".
Posts on Mastodon also have several other options for how they're displayed:
- Public posts have the ability to not be displayed on the two timelines mentioned above, while still remaining public. This means that anyone viewing your profile can still see and boost the post, but you can choose not to broadcast the post onto the public timelines. Simply tick the "Do not display in public timelines" option under the box where you compose your posts.
- Public and private posts have the option of being hidden behind a content warning filter. This is explained more in-depth on this page.
- Media posts (posts with image attachments), public or private, have the option of being "marked as sensitive". This causes the image(s) to be displayed with a black filter over the image preview with the text "Sensitive Content, click to view" in other users' timelines. If they choose to view the media behind the filter, they can simply click on the image to see it without the filter. When posting sensitive media, such as NSFW imagery, you are expected to utilize this filter.
Other important notes about posting privacy:
- Currently, private posts on Mastodon do not federate to other instances. This means that only followers that share the same instance as you will be able to see your private posts, and vice versa. If you remotely follow a user on another instance, you will not be able to see their private posts. You can, however, remotely follow private accounts and see the posts that they mark as public.
- The only exception to private posts federating is when you tag someone from another instance in the post. Because not all instances may honor the privacy settings of your post, a warning will display to let you know that the post will be sent to the mentioned users on that instance. If you agree to send a post to a user on an instance that does not honor privacy settings, your post may become public. It's important to think about which instance you trust to honor the post's privacy settings. Please consider this before sending your post.
- Boosted posts are always public, even when your account is private. If you boost another user's public post, users that view your profile will see the posts you have boosted. They will not be able to see any of your own posts that are labeled as private. Boosted posts are also not displayed on either of the public timelines.
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