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Bluesky Needs To Get Its House In Order

By Brian Richards | Social Media | July 21, 2023 |

By Brian Richards | Social Media | July 21, 2023 |


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Ever since Elon Musk, a.k.a. Fake-Ass Tony Stark, purchased ownership of Twitter, the app has become a near-insufferable hellmouth for so many of its users. They weren’t naive enough to believe that Twitter was perfect and flawless before Elon came along, but his presence has only exacerbated the worst things and people about it, and he’s been doing it so much that there have been numerous people and organizations who refuse to be present on Twitter any longer. Some of them have moved on to using other social media apps looking to pick up the ball that Twitter keeps fumbling: Hive, Spoutible, Spill. One of the apps that has recently gotten plenty of attention for coming the closest to being the second coming of Twitter is Bluesky.

Much of Bluesky’s design and layout is incredibly similar to Twitter, and the biggest difference between the two is that new users who are looking to create and activate an account must be given an invite code from other users who already have accounts on the app. For people who have grown tired of experiencing one sh-tshow after another at the f-ck factory that Elon has allowed Twitter to become, Bluesky has been a much-needed oasis. A lot of its users have expressed joy and relief at finding another app where they can breathe a little easier, and where they don’t have to be concerned about how the deck chairs are being rearranged on a slowly sinking ship.

Or at least, that’s how many of them used to feel.

Last week, Bluesky (or to be more specific, the people in charge of Bluesky) received some very serious backlash when some trolls decided to join the app and create their own accounts. Those trolls, when creating their accounts, decided to make the oh-so-hilarious decision to include racial slurs in their usernames, such as “BlackNiggerMonkey.” Another user just simply had the N-word, and nothing else, as their username of choice, whereas others chose to include epithets that were unmistakably linked to misogyny and homophobia in theirs. Because you can always count on Internet trolls to be as creative as they are annoying.

Bluesky users, especially those who are Black, were understandably furious about this. And they weren’t just furious about what the trolls had done, but the fact that these trolls were even able to do this in the first place, and allow racial slurs to be included in their usernames without the app putting an immediate stop to such an activity. They wanted to know where the hell was the Trust & Safety department for an important matter like this, and if there even is a Trust & Safety department for Bluesky. Even the name generator for Barbie that we were all obsessing over a few months ago had restrictions to prevent any usage of profanities and/or racial epithets.

It was both disappointing and infuriating for Bluesky users to discover, in the worst way possible, that this app wasn’t the safe space they were looking and hoping for. There had been some earlier warnings about Bluesy over on Twitter about things like this happening before (and that such things would continue to happen, considering that BlueSky is being overseen by Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter who did very little to prevent horrible behavior from Nazis and bullies and trolls to run rampant), but many of those warnings seemed to have been ignored. What made things even worse was BlueSky’s apology to its users for allowing this to happen. And frankly, their apology (and I use the word loosely) left a lot to be desired, and made some users wonder why they even bothered saying anything in the first place.

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As for the responses to this half-assed apology? They asked how this was allowed to happen in the first place, while also pointing out the possible lack of diversity in Bluesky’s boardroom for them to even allow this. They pointed out that being silent about the matter for days was not a good approach for them to take, and acting like this was just one isolated incident that they could sweep under the rug was even worse. Their non-apology sounded like something that their lawyers approved so that they wouldn’t admit to too much responsibility for what happened. Are there any members of underrepresented communities who are on the development team? Where the hell is your specific apology to Black people who use BlueSky, along with your guarantee that something like this will never happen again? And there were too many (I’ll leave you to guess the race) people who were doing way too much in their defense of Bluesky and its owners, and stated that the people getting upset about this were being too upset and that their anger mostly came off as “reflexive outrage.” This is reminiscent of when a white celebrity or organization says or does something that upsets and offends Black people, said celebrity/organization offers up their Apple Notes apology, and white people accept that apology and let them know that all is forgiven …even thought it really isn’t their apology to accept.

Science fiction author and blogger John Scalzi offered his two cents on the catastrof-ck happening over at BlueSky.

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It also didn’t take long for others to notice and point out that BlueSky wasn’t the only brand-new social media app dealing with trolls breaking into the party and sh-tting in the punchbowl. Threads, the new messaging app from the makers of Instagram, also had new users creating accounts so they could do their part in reminding everyone else that they think racism and misogyny are awesome, and seeing people become upset at the sight of racism and misogyny is even better. It served as yet another reminder that a social media app without a Trust & Safety department (or one that has a T&S department that is very bad at their jobs) will end up having the same level of success, quality, and longevity as Quibi.

Bluesky is still in the beta stage of development, so it still has a long way to go with all of the listening and learning they need to do before it can stop crawling and start running at full speed. But for some of its users, they may not have the patience to stay with Bluesky and see whether or not it becomes as safe and reliable as they were originally hoping for. Those users aren’t obligated to stick around and continue using Bluesky. Some of them have gone back to focusing their attention on other apps like Spill and Spoutible, while others have continued using Twitter, mainly because for them, it’s better the devil they know (and have history with) than the devil they don’t (and who has already raised doubt that the grass will be greener). Only time will tell as to whether BlueSky will succeed in dethroning Twitter and becoming everyone’s social media app of choice, or whether it will fail and end up going the way of Friendster.