Twitter alternative Bluesky is facing criticism for its failure to crack down on racist groups. Users have complained about the platform registering handles containing racial insults in them and the suppression of Black voices, Mashable reported.
For the past week, Bluesky users expressed dismay after trolls were able to create accounts with racial slurs in their usernames, including the so-called n-word (a slur used against humans of black descent, especially, African Americans). Bluesky took no action to remove these usernames until users complained.
Even when people reported the insults, the platform did not act immediately. As it turned out, Bluesky did not have a moderation protocol to prevent accounts from using racist names, or stopping what is believed to be a longstanding racial problem.
Bluesky users go on ‘strike’
The community was outraged by the administration’s delayed response to the issue of hate speech and their seeming indifference to the matter. In response, a large number of people reportedly staged a protest by refusing to post on the platform.
Angry users took to Twitter to denounce the Bluesky team’s inaction.
“They [Bluesky] didn’t block the n-word because a lot of folks in tech are racist. Did you really think all the n-word accounts on Twitter couldn’t be removed when Jack was CEO?” shouted software developer Christopher Bouzy on Twitter.
“Just logged on to Bluesky – looks like dril is going on strike to protest racism. Don’t really have time to keep up with social media this year…but I hope they sort things out,” said Twitter user Asa.
Freelance science journalist Erina Biba said: “I had been enjoying Bluesky but the development team doesn’t seem to give a f**k about racism so I’ve lost interest. There [is] absolutely no way I’m joining Threads.”
Not a big deal, Bluesky still in beta
While Bluesky has been responsive to some concerns raised by different communities on the platform, other users said it is slower to act on issues of anti-Blackness.
The network has a history of struggling to respond to instances of hate speech and harassment. One user told Mashable, a digital media platform and entertainment company that Bluesky “drags their feet” when it comes to racism on the site.
Bluesky team member and protocol engineer Bryan Newbold admitted to making “decisions and mistakes [that] have caused harm to real people, including Black folks including really great+knowledgeable Black folks who supported Bluesky.”
“I’m sorry. feel pretty bad about it. it sucks. re/earning their trust, and everybody else’s trust, will be hard,” he added.
Some of his colleagues are singing from a different hymn. As seen in the Twitter post below, Bluesky team member Ansh believes racism is not a big deal at this stage because the app is still in beta, a kind of testing period that solicits user feedback.
BlueSky’s response to racism and antiblackness they have ignored is how it’s a beta. People asked for apology:
They say it’s a beta. Yes this is a team member pic.twitter.com/SwaEnQTOs7
— 👾Gatekeeping Cartoon Persona(Aveta)👾 (@Aliafonzy43) July 14, 2023
Patching the ‘mistake’
Bluesky is a decentralized social media network founded by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey. Launched in February 2023, the platform is designed to give users more control over their data and also offers them the ability to move their profiles between different networks.
The Twitter competitor reached a significant milestone recently, hitting more than one million downloads, according to app store intelligence provider data.ai. One of Bluesky’s main selling points is its claimed aversion to racism and harassment.
However, the latest controversy raises questions about the network’s commitment to ending racism on its platform. While Bluesky acknowledged that it needed to do more to combat the problem, the team’s official response to the race issue is rather questionable.
Bluesky framed the problem as a onetime “mistake” rather than a serious oversight.
“On Wednesday [July 12], users reported an account that had a slur as its handle. This handle was absolutely in violation of our community guidelines, and it was our mistake that allowed it to be created,” said the team, as reported by Mashable.
“Forty minutes after it was reported, our moderation team saw the report and took the account down. The code that allowed this to occur was patched the same evening, and the next day, we continued to work on a more comprehensive technical solution that uses a combination of banned words and human review upon account creation.”
Bluesky is currently an invite-only social media network – meaning you cannot join without one.