Science & Tech

Dril and AOC sign up to Jack Dorsey-backed BlueSky platform - but what is it, and is Elon Musk a fan?

Related video: Twitter picks crypto developer Jay Graber to run decentralized social media wing

Not long after Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk bought out Twitter back in October, users were considering flocking to rival social media platforms such as Mastodon and Post. Now, a social network known as BlueSky could also offer refuge for those not so keen on where Musk is taking Twitter.

But what is it?

“An open and decentralised standard for social media”

Much like Mastodon, Bluesky is a ‘decentralised’ social media platform, meaning that rather than users all having an account under one ‘centralised’ server owned by one particular company, individuals can sign up to join individual servers and communities owned by other people.

Mastodon, for example, calls these ‘instances’.

Back in December 2019, when the CEO of Twitter was Jack Dorsey and not Musk, Dorsey announced the site he co-founded would be funding an independent team to develop “an open and decentralised standard for social media”.

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In a lengthy Twitter thread at the time, Dorsey wrote: “We’re facing entirely new challenges centralised solutions are struggling to meet. For instance, centralised enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing too much burden on people.

“Second, the value of social media is shifting away from content hosting and removal, and towards recommendation algorithms directing one’s attention. Unfortunately, these algorithms are typically proprietary, and one can’t choose or build alternatives. Yet.

“Third, existing social media incentives frequently lead to attention being focused on content and conversation that sparks controversy and outrage, rather than conversation which informs and promotes health.”

This was back in 2019, and it sure looks like Dorsey predicted the future direction of Twitter in particular, as Musk rolled out the algorithmic ‘For You’ feed in January.

And on controversy and outrage, a study from The Centre for Countering Digital Hate found use of the n-word on Twitter tripled in the first week of Musk’s takeover of the platform.

The billionaire has continued to stress a “strong commitment to content moderation” on Twitter, and earlier this month he clashed with a BBC journalist during an interview and challenged him to provide “a single example”.

So who’s already signed up to Bluesky?

Two of the most high-profile names who have created accounts on the platform are New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Dril, an individual known for posting surreal social media content.

What does Elon Musk make of all this?

Well, according to a few Twitter accounts, Musk is preventing individuals from sharing links to BlueSky:

While only a handful of people have reported issues so far, it wouldn’t be the first time Musk has tried to restrict the promotion of rival platforms on Twitter, having previously blocked Mastodon links and stopping Twitter embeds on the newsletter platform Substack.

But wait, doesn’t Bluesky have ownership of any content which you post on there?

On Thursday, a tweet was posted and widely shared showing Bluesky’s terms of service, in which it states users assign a “royalty-free license” to “use, modify, adapt, crop, edit, create derivative works … and otherwise exploit in any media … your User Content”.

It also states that a user also grants Bluesky the same license to “use your name, image [and] likeness”.

Sounds excessive, but thankfully Bluesky employee Rose Wang went on to clarify the language in the ToS in a Twitter thread, writing that they’re planning to add “more user-friendly language” into the document.

“We want to reiterate that we do not own your content, and if we ever use your content in a way that you disapprove of, please contact us ASAP,” she said.

She also confirmed that Dorsey does not run Bluesky. A blog post from March last year states the lead is in fact Jay Grober.

Can I sign up?

This is the tricky part, as Bluesky signups are currently limited to individuals who have an invite code given to them by someone already on the platform.

You can, however, sign up to join the waitlist to try out the beta on its official website.

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