The other example of this behavior I’ve seen was when Greg McVerry, a college professor and member of the IndieWeb community, tried to join a Mastodon instance that was specific to researchers and professors in higher education. Sadly he found out, like Joe, that syndicating content from other locations was not acceptable there. As I recall, they also required an automatic content warning on almost everything posted to that particular instance which seemed an additional travesty to me. I think he ultimately joined mastodon.social and found he didn’t have any similar issues there and anyone who wanted to follow him from any other instances still could. I’m sure he can provide some additional details and may have posted about it sometime in the summer of 2018 when it happened.
The tough part is that each instance, though federated among many others, can have its own terms of service and set up. Some instances can be and certainly are run by their own tyrannical administrators, and I suppose that it’s their right since they’re paying for the server and the overhead. The solution is to do some research into some instances and find one that isn’t going to ban you for what would otherwise seem like average use to most. I’ve found mastodon.social to be relatively simple in its terms and its massive size also tends to cover up a lot of edge cases, so you’re unlikely to run into the same problems there. (It is also run by the creator of Mastodon, who has generally been IndieWeb friendly.)
The issue Joe has run into also points out a flaw of the overall Fediverse in that just like each real-world country can have its own laws and there is a broader general international law, the international laws aren’t as well codified or respected by each individual country. When you’re operating in someone else’s country, you’re bound to follow their local laws and even customs. Fortunately if you don’t like them there are lots of other places to live. And this is one of the bigger, mostly unseen, benefits of the IndieWeb: if you have your own website, you can create your own rules/laws and do as you please without necessarily relying as heavily on the rules of others.
I’ll note that some in the IndieWeb (Aaron Parecki, Ryan Barrett, Mathias Pfefferle, Jacky Alcine, et al.) have been playing around with or thinking about adding the ActivityPub protocols so that their own websites act as stand-alone members of the Fediverse. Since I know Joe has recently moved to WordPress, I’ll mention that there are two separate projects to help WordPress sites federate:
* ActivityPub plugin for WordPress from Mathias Pfefferle
* Bridgy Fed from Ryan Barrett
Naturally neither of these (yet) supports all of the protocols so some functionality one would find on Mastodon won’t necessarily work, but I suspect that over time that they eventually will. It’s been a while since I tried out BridgyFed, but I’ve had the ActivityPub plugin set up for a bit and have noticed a lot of recent work by Mathias Pfefferle to use it for himself. I still have to tweak around with some of my settings, but so far it provides some relatively useful results. The best part is that I don’t need to syndicate content to Mastodon, but users there can subscribe to me at @email@example.com, for example, instead of @firstname.lastname@example.org. The results and functionality aren’t perfect yet, but with some work we’ll get there I think.
Good luck finding (or creating) an instance that works for you!