How your newsroom can use Bluesky this election season

Jan 24, 2024

Imagine you’ve spent 10 years on Twitter, sharing ideas, developing friendships, and building an audience online. If you decide to leave the platform now, you have no choice but to also leave your relationships behind — you have no meaningful control over your social identity there. Struggling to keep up with the latest changes to a black box algorithm or making accounts every few years on the latest, hottest platform shouldn’t be the price we have to pay just to stay in touch with our friends and followers online.

For too long, publishers, creators, even governments have treated Twitter and other platforms as borrowed public infrastructure. What if we made social more like the web itself — open, interoperable, and with lots of choice? On Bluesky:

  • You own the algorithm, not the other way around. Curate custom feeds that keep readers informed and engaged, while also helping them with intentional news consumption.
  • Never get locked out of the open ecosystem. Build tooling on Bluesky’s open API, such as an article page that shows real-time commentary from journalists as they post to Bluesky.
  • Own your social identity online. Show trustworthiness of your journalists’ accounts by verifying their accounts through domain handles yourself (for free).

Election tooling on Bluesky’s open network

Big-scale social media, like Bluesky, is excellent at distributing information efficiently and effectively. Here are some key features that Bluesky offers that particularly suit the needs of information dissemination related to elections.

Custom Feeds

One unique feature on Bluesky is custom feeds — you choose your own timelines, instead of being beholden to private companies and black box algorithms. You can think of them as super-powered lists; they can both be lists of static groups of people or algorithmically-driven feeds. There are already more than 25,000 custom feeds that anyone can build and subscribe to on Bluesky!

Some of my favorites, to give you a sense of what’s out there, are:

  • Quiet Posters, which weights posts from those that don’t post frequently more highly so I’m sure to see their content.
  • News, a feed that includes publishers that have self-verified. This helps with intentional news consumption.

Custom feeds can aid newsrooms in owning their relationships with their audience. Instead of posting links and hoping The Algorithm™ surfaces your content to readers, a newsroom could run a custom feed, say, on “NYC Elections 2024.” Now, all residents in NYC can subscribe to this custom feed, which your newsroom has full curation control over, and get accurate information from you directly.

One implication of this is that newsrooms could then monetize their feeds directly: the feed could be gated to subscribers of the paper only, or they could scatter advertisements throughout the feed, etc.

Third-party Labeling

On Bluesky, you can stack multiple layers of moderation on top of each other, as easily as following a new user. One in-progress feature is third-party labeling, and I see fact-checking as an ideal use case for this!

For example, in October 2023, some viral posts that claimed to show the Israel-Hamas war were actually just clips from a video game. A fact-checking organization could run a labeling system to mark posts as misinformation in real-time. I see this as a win-win: users are better informed, and the fact check has a much wider reach on the original post itself than as a standalone article. Users can subscribe to trusted organizations who run labeling systems, and receive any labels (fact checks or otherwise) that the organization creates.

After all, a single private company cannot perfectly understand cultural norms across the globe or industry-specific knowledge of niche fields to execute moderation for the entire world, no matter how hard it tries. Whether the labels are related to geopolitical conflict, scientific accuracy, or just different cultural norms, labeling systems can provide another layer of moderation on top of users’ existing preferences.

Open and Free API

Bluesky is a public and open social network by design. We could never pull the rug out from under developers building on the API — the network simply wouldn’t function without it. One of our unofficial company mottos is “the company is a future adversary” (which goes kinda hard, ngl) — the open network that we’re building now must be able to continue to exist, even if Bluesky the company disappears or goes evil.

Technical jargon incoming: On Bluesky, you can “listen to the firehose,” which is a data stream of public actions on the platform. Instead of subscribing to multiple different API endpoints for likes, reposts, follows, etc. separately, you can get all of this data in one place, which makes it an excellent tool for researchers, the OSINT community, etc., and incredibly fun for developers, social scientists, and more.

So what kind of elections-related projects could you build in the Bluesky developer ecosystem? Just spit-balling here:

  • Bluesky posts embedded in articles and publicly viewable by even those who don’t have an account. Embed Bluesky posts here!
  • Live feeds on a news site that surface journalists’ Bluesky posts in real-time for quick and effective commentary and analysis
  • Replies to a news organization’s post sharing its article, embedded as comments on the article itself. This shares the conversation around the post, even to people without a Bluesky account. (Check out the comments section below.)
  • Voter education bots that users can interact with to find out how and where to vote
  • Analyses of election night sentiments, surfacing potential voter obstruction from users
  • + lots more

Here are some projects that developers have already built. Many of them are open-source, so you can find some inspiration in their codebases! Developer documentation here.

Join Bluesky!

Sign up for Bluesky at If you work at a news organization and want to learn more, please reach out at If you’re a developer looking to get started building on Bluesky, here’s a link to documentation.

Finally, here’s a link to Bluesky’s official press FAQ.

Thank you to Dylan Freedman, Dana Cassidy, and Chris Painter for thoughtful feedback on this post!

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