Black, queer, and transgender users are turning to Bluesky, an invite-only app that aims to provide an alternative for Twitter users. The platform is in beta testing with around 50,000 users, and the invitation system has reduced the risk of bad actors. Members of marginalized communities hope their early input will help create a tolerant environment as the app grows. Bluesky has become popular among Black tech workers, with Black Twitter users following. Queer and trans users have also taken to the platform, finding it more welcoming than Twitter.
Many Black, queer, and transgender users have grown weary of Twitter, which they say has become increasingly inhospitable to marginalized communities. As a result, they are flocking to Bluesky, an invite-only app in beta testing, which many hope will provide an alternative for Twitter users.
Bluesky has about 50,000 users and is ranked highly in download charts globally. The invitation system has limited sign-ups and prioritizes people who bring in “trustworthy participants,” reducing the risk of bad actors. Members of marginalized communities who are on it say they are cautiously optimistic that their early input will help create a tolerant environment as the app grows.
One of the first communities to migrate to Bluesky was Black tech workers on Twitter, spearheaded by an active user named Aveta. She felt sad that many of her favorite people on Twitter were leaving, and she couldn’t interact with them anymore. So, she brought them over to Bluesky, where she felt the platform was more familiar and the team was more supportive of community builders.
Black Twitter, an unofficial group of users self-organized around shared cultural experiences, has played a key role in movements such as #SayHerName and #OscarsSoWhite. Black Americans accounted for an estimated 28% of Twitter users in 2018, roughly double the proportion of the U.S. Black population, according to the media measurement company Nielsen.
Aveta prioritized moving the Black tech community to Bluesky first to combine social appeal with technical knowledge. She wanted to shape and mold the platform alongside the dev team and give a perspective that may not have been considered before.
Intersectionality is also important to Aveta, who extended her invitations to people of color, queer people, and disabled people. Among those she invited were several members of Tech by Choice, a 1,200-member nonprofit group that helps marginalized communities enter and stay in the tech industry.
Queer and trans users have also taken to Bluesky, quickly becoming a sizable part of it. Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic and a trans rights activist, said that one of the best parts about Bluesky, compared to Twitter, is that she can post normally without immediately getting an influx of transphobic remarks or death threats.
Bluesky’s unique corporate structure as a public benefit limited liability company may have an impact on the app’s culture moving forward. A public benefit LLC allows executives to pursue social causes without prioritizing shareholder returns. Pariss Chandler, the organizer of Black Tech Twitter and the founder of the recruitment platform Black Tech Pipeline said diversity, equity, and inclusion should be considered early in a platform’s launch. The prominence of marginalized communities in Bluesky’s beta testing is valuable for the developers who are building the app.
Jasmine Enberg, a principal analyst at eMarketer Insider Intelligence, said the challenge will be to maintain the same sense of comfort for users as Bluesky scales up. Although the app has many similarities to Twitter, its key difference is that it is decentralized. That means user data can be stored on independent servers rather than ones owned by the company. As the servers splinter, it could result in communities that have more autonomy to punt trolls or a more complicated and less attractive interface for potential new users.
Bluesky didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In its moderation plans on its website, it says that as it grows, it will use “automated filtering, manual admin actions, and community labeling” to moderate the content.