Post «Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’?» in blog Прогноз погоды

People

John Smith

John Smith, 48

Joined: 28 January 2014

Interests: No data

Jonnathan Coleman

Jonnathan Coleman, 32

Joined: 18 June 2014

About myself: You may say I'm a dreamer

Interests: Snowboarding, Cycling, Beer

Andrey II

Andrey II, 41

Joined: 08 January 2014

Interests: No data

David

David

Joined: 05 August 2014

Interests: No data

David Markham

David Markham, 65

Joined: 13 November 2014

Interests: No data

Michelle Li

Michelle Li, 41

Joined: 13 August 2014

Interests: No data

Max Almenas

Max Almenas, 53

Joined: 10 August 2014

Interests: No data

29Jan

29Jan, 31

Joined: 29 January 2014

Interests: No data

s82 s82

s82 s82, 26

Joined: 16 April 2014

Interests: No data

Wicca

Wicca, 36

Joined: 18 June 2014

Interests: No data

Phebe Paul

Phebe Paul, 26

Joined: 08 September 2014

Interests: No data

Артем Ступаков

Артем Ступаков, 93

Joined: 29 January 2014

About myself: Радуюсь жизни!

Interests: No data

sergei jkovlev

sergei jkovlev, 59

Joined: 03 November 2019

Interests: музыка, кино, автомобили

Алексей Гено

Алексей Гено, 8

Joined: 25 June 2015

About myself: Хай

Interests: Интерес1daasdfasf, http://apple.com

ivanov5056 Ivanov

ivanov5056 Ivanov, 69

Joined: 20 July 2019

Interests: No data



Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’?

01:30 | 21 October expand

Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’?

Years ago, I wrote a piece criticizing a cover story by a well-known writer and political commentator that I’d met a few times, with whom I’d occasionally sparred on Twitter. The piece wasn’t merely a representation of my own views, but pulled in snarky tweets from other journalists disparaging her work too. It was a pile-on, and not my proudest moment.

The Writer wasn’t exactly thin-skinned; in fact, quite the contrary: She was a brash, sometimes obnoxious feminist with strong opinions, unafraid to speak her mind. I often agreed with her, even when I found her delivery abrasive. Still, after a couple of years with me as a thorn in her side, she decided she’d had enough—and so she did something that many readers will find familiar: She blocked me on Twitter.

The block button is an important tool that allows women and other vulnerable people to have some semblance of the same Twitter experience that the average white man might, free from constant harassment. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve used it over the years to drown out nasty ad hominems, sea lions, and of course, sexual harassment and worse. 

Twitter wasn’t always the “hell site” we know it as today. Many early users like me found professional advancement and lasting friendship in 140-character missives. But as the site grew, so did its potential for misuse. By 2014—two years shy of its tenth anniversary—Twitter had become central to the GamerGate controversy, ostensibly a dispute about issues of sexism and progressivism in gaming but on Twitter, a free-for-all of harassment and doxing of any woman even tangentially involved in the discussion. The harassment was so severe that it drove some women off the site permanently.

Out of GamerGate emerged better tools for blocking, tools like BlockTogether that allow individual users to share a list of people they’ve blocked. The idea behind these tools is that harassers are likely to have multiple targets, so why not make it easier for potential targets of harassment to block numerous would-be harassers all at once?

But BlockTogether and similar tools are not without flaws. Once you’re on a blocklist, it can be hard to get your name removed and if you end up, for whatever reason, on one created by a prominent or well-respected user, you may find yourself blocked by people you don’t know and would’ve enjoyed following. Some might call this reasonable collateral damage.

Numerous journalists and others have complained of finding themselves on a blocklist after a disagreement with an individual who uses them. I’m unfortunately on one used by a number of journalists. Why, you might ask, was I blocked in the first place? I remember quite clearly: It was for disagreeing with someone about the life sentence handed to Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the Silk Road website. For my opinion, I’ve lost the ability to follow or interact with dozens of journalists whose work I read.

Despite that, I don’t blame women or other minorities who’ve experienced harassment for using the block button liberally. Blocking someone isn’t a matter of free speech (unless of course the blocker in question is an elected official), as some of my harassers have claimed—rather, it’s often a matter of preserving one’s sanity. The block button, along with blocklists, are useful tools for curating space—not a safe space per se, but one free from random harassers, spammers, and the like. Think of it more as a large invite-only event, as opposed to a New York City street.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder if our liberal use of the block button prevents us from experiencing the kind of reconciliation that can happen in our offline communities. We often remove someone from our life, only for them to apologize their way back in later on. Even the Amish, who practice shunning as a matter of faith, allow for the repented to return.

twitter logo sketch wide inverted

Twitter’s architecture has changed over time, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Presently, its algorithm sometimes surfaces replies from people you do follow, to tweets from individuals you don’t, based on some assumption that you mind find them interesting. Occasionally, it will surface a reply from a friend to someone with a locked account or, in rare cases, to someone who blocks you, as it did for me the other day. Someone I follow had replied with an interesting comment to a tweet from The Writer—a tweet that, of course, I couldn’t see without logging out and going directly to her profile. And so I did.

What I found was someone who, with that same fierce energy, seemed a lot more thoughtful, with views more similar to mine than I remembered. I felt a momentary pang of sadness for the camaraderie that might have been. I realized the obvious: That we’ve both grown, alongside the backdrop of the horrific political environment that’s accompanied us through the past half-decade. “Have you thought about reaching out to her?” a friend asked.

Therein lies the rub: In the case of The Writer, I could reach out to her; we’ve met in person a few times, and we retain mutual friends. She might respond favorably, or with a “thanks but no thanks”, but either way, it’s unlikely she would deem my approach to be harassment. But there’s this other journalist I’ve never interacted with, who no doubt signed up to a blocklist that I happened to be on. I discovered that she blocked me when I went to read a tweet someone had DM’d me, and was disappointed—but reaching out to her through some other channel would seem weird, invasive. It isn’t worth it.

I recently reviewed my own list of blocked accounts (you can do so through your settings), a list that numbers well into the hundreds. Most aren’t worth revisiting—there’s sexual harassers and transphobes, Bahraini bots and Roseanne Barr, some Trumpites and a few high-profile right-wing accounts. But among them, close to the bottom of the list (coinciding with the early days of the block button), I spotted a few outliers, and decided to give them a second chance.

Technology is constantly changing and progressing and yet, the block button—and blocklists—remain in rudimentary form. They’re simply not priorities for companies whose focus is on profit. But were we to redesign them, perhaps we could find a way to make blocks time-limited, or at least provide users with more nuanced options. One such existing feature is Facebook’s “snooze” button, which allows users to “mute” another person for 30 days, with a reminder when that time period is up; I found that one particularly handy last summer while a friend was going heavy on self-promotion. I use Twitter’s “mute” function to rid my feed of people with whom I have to interact professionally and thus can’t block. And then there’s the “soft block”—a feature or bug, it isn’t clear—wherein one can block and unblock someone quickly on Twitter so that the user no longer follows them…at least until they wisen up (this feature/bug is made easier by the fact that Twitter seems to be perpetually plagued by an “unfollow bug”). These tools are helpful, but with all the riches these companies have, they could design something—with input from those most affected by harassment—that is less blunt, more elegant, more thoughtful.

Ultimately, the block button is an imperfect solution to a pervasive problem, and therefore remains as necessary as ever. I know that I’ll continue to use it as long as I’m on social media. But…don’t we deserve something better?

Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’? Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’? Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’? Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’? Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’? Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’?
Should we rethink the politics of ‘blocking’?

 


Read more→

Follow: Column
Posted on 21.10.2019 01:30

Comments

To show the previous comments (%s from %s)
Show new comments

Last comments

Walmart retreats from its UK Asda business to hone its focus on competing with Amazon
Peter Short
Good luck
Peter Short

Evolve Foundation launches a $100 million fund to find startups working to relieve human suffering
Peter Short
Money will give hope
Peter Short

Boeing will build DARPA’s XS-1 experimental spaceplane
Peter Short
Great
Peter Short

Is a “robot tax” really an “innovation penalty”?
Peter Short
It need to be taxed also any organic substance ie food than is used as a calorie transfer needs tax…
Peter Short

Twitter Is Testing A Dedicated GIF Button On Mobile
Peter Short
Sounds great Facebook got a button a few years ago
Then it disappeared Twitter needs a bottom maybe…
Peter Short

Apple’s Next iPhone Rumored To Debut On September 9th
Peter Short
Looks like a nice cycle of a round year;)
Peter Short

AncestryDNA And Google’s Calico Team Up To Study Genetic Longevity
Peter Short
I'm still fascinated by DNA though I favour pure chemistry what could be
Offered is for future gen…
Peter Short

U.K. Push For Better Broadband For Startups
Verg Matthews
There has to an email option icon to send to the clowns in MTNL ... the govt of India's service pro…
Verg Matthews

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short


Site search