Why doesn't blocking work?

I had to block a few users yesterday. Today, I noticed about ten notifications from users I've blocked—they replied to me, continued to make up lies about my heritage, and I continued to see their comments in my notifications.

It seems that the only effect of my blocking them is that I can no longer see their comments in context—although I am still notified of their harassment. This is quite the opposite effect from the one I was going for—I mean, I'm happy to spend less time engaging with them, but the block feature seems to be guaranteeing these bigots the "last word" and preventing me from even reporting them. They can then follow me anywhere on kbin and continue to harass me, the block function is only stopping me from doing anything about it.

At least one of these users is on the same instance as I am, kbin.social.

Why doesn't blocking work?

Arotrios,
Arotrios avatar

If someone continues to harass you after you've blocked them, it's because they're lonely and want your attention. I've found that offering comforting and condescending words while reverse spamming them with Eleanor Rigby seems to end the harassment quickly... especially when they realize that they can't block you properly either.

cacheson,
cacheson avatar

Notifications from blocked users is a bug. There isn't really anything that can be done about the "last word" thing, though. On reddit-style platforms, the expectation is that blocking a user just hides their posts and comments. If the blocking user's activity was hidden from the blocked user, then it would be possible to preemptively block someone before defaming them in order to stop them from reporting it.

PugJesus,
PugJesus avatar

On Reddit, blocked users can see but can't respond to posters that have blocked them.

Pamasich, (edited )
Pamasich avatar

It wasn't like that until a few years ago, and people disliked the change.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

To clarify, a few years ago, the blocked user could not see the message either. The logic behind the change was, "you can just log out and see it anyway, so what's the difference?" Most people spend most of their time logged in. The difference is significant.

Pamasich, (edited )
Pamasich avatar

Maybe there's been another change. In the original system I meant, blocking was one-sided only.

To quote Reddit themselves:

We will be evolving the blocking experience so that it not only removes a blocked user’s content from your experience, but also removes your content from their experience—i.e., a user you have blocked can’t see or interact with you.

Previously, if I blocked u/IAmABlockedUser, I would not see their content, but they would see mine. With the updated blocking experience, I won’t see u/IAmABlockedUser’s content and they won’t see mine either.

Like I've said in the other comment, not entirely sure on whether replying was possible since I've never been blocked myself.

To clarify, a few years ago, the blocked user could not see the message either.

But this is definitely false.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar
g8phcon2,

People dislike change. Besides I see no particular reason kbin should be copying reddit.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

Well, aside from the fact that people expect the "block" function to block the blocked user, and not merely mute the blocked user...

"People dislike change." Coming from any other platform, they expect the "block" feature to work the same way it did all their lives. When they find out it doesn't, they will feel that kbin breaks the established norm of reddit, mastodon, twitter, instagram, facebook, every messaging client, and every other site with a "block" feature, constitutes an unannounced and unwelcomed change from every other service, and not only leave, but carry and share strong negative opinions about the fediverse.

Maybe having the fediverse not being janky garbage software would be better?

Pamasich,
Pamasich avatar

What you're saying makes sense, but I think the big issue here is that blocking as it currently works on Reddit is harmful because it's too easy to abuse. If the only reason for the change is familiarity, then you'll just make the platform worse for actual users just to lessen the barrier of entry.

So, why does any platform even need this, besides familiarity? If you don't want to see a user, hiding them from you will achieve that perfectly.

I really can only think of malicious reasons. Shutting down an argument or badmouthing someone without giving them a means to respond or defend themselves.

Like, if it's to avoid stalkers, this would do literally nothing to achieve that. They can just log out and continue doing what they were doing.

I don't think kbin should be blindly adopting bad ideas even if everyone else does them. If it was actually beneficial, sure, have kbin go for it. But this doesn't seem to solve a problem, nor does it actually improve our quality of life. Rather, it does the opposite. It introduces a problem we could just do without by keeping what we have currently.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

What you're saying makes sense, but I think the big issue here is that blocking as it currently works on Reddit is harmful because it's too easy to abuse.

This is really not a problem on reddit, especially in the face of rogue moderators doing the same thing, except on the scale of a subreddit. Nobody

So, why does any platform even need this, besides familiarity?

I explained it many, many times throughout this thread. Harassment is bad. People's expectation to be able to block harassers is not just familiar, it's good. People should be able to free themselves from harassment—not just from knowing they're being harassed.

Right now, the assholes I blocked could, for all I know, be chasing me around the fediverse commenting on everything I say. They could be stalking me. They could be doxxing me. This is too easy to abuse.

On top of that, these threats make it dangerous to even use the muting feature against those real assholes. Muting only makes sense for people you find mildly annoying. I'm afraid when I mute a harasser, afraid that their harassment will continue, that I won't be able to reply to it, and that people will believe every nasty, bigoted thing they say about me. My only chance at safety comes from blocking them.

Shutting down an argument or badmouthing someone without giving them a means to respond or defend themselves.

Muting serves the same function, only punishing the person who uses the mute function instead. Thereby discouraging use of the mute function and perpetuating toxic debate. Toxic debates need to end, they should be shut down—not for a winner or a loser, but because they make everybody's lives worse and really don't enhance access to the truth. Insults should be shut down, rather than going back and forth ad infinitum. Harassment should be shut down. These are not free speech—you can speak freely anywhere. Persistently talking to somebody who doesn't want to hear your bullshit is harassment.

Like, if it's to avoid stalkers, this would do literally nothing to achieve that. They can just log out and continue doing what they were doing.

This will do a lot to prevent stalkers, because even if the stalkers realize they need to log out to stalk the user, they now lose every "follow" function, every logged-in function, and have to stalk the user manually. Most stalkers will never do that—they will lose steam the second they realize they've been blocked, and go worry about something else.

I don't think kbin should be blindly adopting bad ideas even if everyone else does them.

"blindly" while I've explained the issue throughout the thread? This is exhausting.

Pamasich,
Pamasich avatar

Thanks for the writeup, it helped me see things from your perspective. I don't fully agree, but I get now why you're asking for this.

What I'm wondering now is, does the fediverse actually support the kind of block that's being asked for here? Like, is there precedent on this being implemented on other platforms like Mastodon or Lemmy? The issue here is that kbin isn't in control of who sees your posts, I wonder if it's actually possible to implement this in the first place.

This will do a lot to prevent stalkers, because even if the stalkers realize they need to log out to stalk the user, they now lose every "follow" function, every logged-in function, and have to stalk the user manually.

If you actually believe this, you're a bit shortsighted. This is the fediverse, people can just jump onto a different instance. And even on Reddit multiple accounts for the same person were allowed.

People can also run their own personal instance which doesn't honor those blocks.

e569668,
@e569668@fedia.io avatar

does the fediverse actually support the kind of block that's being asked for here?

Yea, that's where I'm thinking the hangup on this might be. A block could be implemented, but it'd come with the caveat of that all it's doing is giving you the idea they aren't continuing to engage with you on your instance. On their instance, and any instance that federates with them, they and others will continue to see the replies.

Personally, I would like to see block renamed to mute to be more accurate and a block from replying added with the note about the drawbacks of them being able to tell you blocked them and their posts still going out everywhere else. That at least empowers the user to make the decision themselves on what they're most ok with. My reasoning is: changing the UI for, let's say an aggressor, gives them a reason to retaliate. To me, either blocking method is a lose-lose; either it doesn't stop engagement which some users clearly want it to, or it makes it obvious someone is being blocked which start aggressors down the retaliation path. That's kind of why I'd want users to make their own risk assessment on actions.

Anyways, that's all very unlikely to happen. Most of all I'd like the bug about notifications fixed because that is clearly not working as intended.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

Yeah, Mastodon has separate block and mute functions. Somebody just accused me of "playing the underdog card" for saying that babies should have their heads attached to their necks, in a whole long chain of comments where he frequently mischaracterized my points, so yes, I blocked him.

If you actually believe this, you're a bit shortsighted. This is the fediverse, people can just jump onto a different instance. And even on Reddit multiple accounts for the same person were allowed.

well, multiple reddit accounts to get around a block or ban were specifically forbidden, but you're right, it's possible.

the thing you're still confused about is thinking that it's something everybody does the second they get banned. There is a limit to the amount of work people actually end up doing to troll others on the internet. Some trolls have an iron will and are stubborn to no end; the vast majority will lose steam eventually and just go do something else.

If you set up your own instance just to troll people more effectively, and somehow manage to stay federated with your victims' servers, you might just be a corner case.

e569668,
@e569668@fedia.io avatar

Yeah, Mastodon has separate block and mute functions.

Ah, good to know. I'll have to look into it a bit more, but reading https://docs.joinmastodon.org/user/moderating/#block

If you and the blocked user are on the same server, the blocked user will not be able to view your posts on your profile while logged in.

It looks like the limitation that Pamasich and I sort of expected is there. Blocks are basically only possible at your own instance. If the user is on another instance, there's no way to stop them in the fediverse. And that includes it going out to all other instances they federate with too.

I sort of just experienced how this would work if implemented, in a way. A kbin social user posted to a beehaw org magazine. I replied to it, but my post does not seem to have made it to kbin social. However, it's on my instance, beehaw's, lemmy one, etc, because my instance federates with all of those instances. That's sort of what blocking would be like if the original page refused an incoming comment due to a block, all other instances would still accept it. It's possible there's something I'm missing as I'm not super knowledgable on activity pub or the fediverse, so I'll try to learn more about it

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

ah, that sucks. feels like it shouldn't be too hard to honor blocks across instances, but idk.

and, yeah, theres' something super janky about the way kbin handles federation...

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

I'm not aware of any other platform where a blocked user can reply to a blocking user, but it certainly isn't possible on Reddit.

Pamasich,
Pamasich avatar

It used to be possible on Reddit, and people didn't like the change to how it is now. Because of how it can be (and is being) abused.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

A blocked user could never respond to a blocking user on Reddit, to my knowledge. I believe you're confused.

Pamasich,
Pamasich avatar

I've never been blocked, so I might be wrong there. But the last word problem was the main reason I've seen people hate the move to the current blocking system, so I assumed it didn't exist before.

Edit: Reddit's official announcement for the new system does explicitly mention they're changing it so you can't interact with users that blocked you anymore. Which implies you could before.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

I've never been blocked, so I might be wrong there. But the last word problem was the main reason I've seen people hate the move to the current blocking system, so I assumed it didn't exist before.

Yes, it's very annoying when the person you're harassing stops you from harassing them, I'm sure. You have all the steam of somebody being wrong on the internet and it just ends, without you being able to vent over four more days as you go back and forth pestering each other with thousand-word comments nobody will read. Trolls must hate it when they get cut off from that.

Reddit's official announcement for the new system does explicitly mention they're changing it so you can't interact with users that blocked you anymore. Which implies you could before.

What I recall is this:

https://www.reddit.com/r/changelog/comments/p2ezy4/bringing_more_visibility_to_comments_from_blocked/

The comments are all complaining about how blocking people doesn't block them, explicitly complaining that this change doesn't do the thing that blocking is, which is not to mute, but to block.

Looking through the history of changes, it seems you're referencing this:

https://www.reddit.com/r/blog/comments/s71g03/announcing_blocking_updates/

And the comment section there is much more mixed, although I do see more people complaining. I suppose people complain to reddit announcements no matter what, but to be fair, they are almost always bad.

cacheson,
cacheson avatar

I may be mistaken on the exact details of how it works on reddit, but allowing non-moderator users to prevent others from replying doesn't sound like a good idea. For comments, preventing a blocked user from replying directly in a child comment means they'll just reply in a sibling comment instead. They still get the last word, so the only thing accomplished is to mess up the threading a little bit.

For posts, preventing blocked users from replying gives the poster pseudo-moderator powers over replies. They can block anyone criticizing or disagreeing with them, giving them significant narrative control. Not exactly desirable.

Blocking should only be for filtering what the blocking user sees. It cannot be a substitute for proper moderation.

cacheson,
cacheson avatar

Alright, let's pretend that you've blocked me, and that this comment is telling everyone that you smell bad. It's not a direct/child response to your comment, but everyone can see it and knows I'm talking about you. If you don't respond, then by your logic I've "won", and you must in fact smell bad.

It seems more like you're taking a stand on stubborn principle than advocating for good user interface design.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

People expect to see replies in a comment chain because people expect the user to be notified. Nobody expects the user to follow down a totally different comment chain they weren't notified of to see every single insult anybody levies at them. And people recognize the extreme pettiness of baselessly insulting a user in a different comment chain where they aren't notified of the comment.

Whereas, if it's actually an informed response to misinformation, nobody sees it as petty, and it doesn't need to be in the same comment chain to have its effect, and it really doesn't need to be a back and forth.

Long comment chains really don't benefit anybody but the trolls who bait reasonable people into them, tbh.

danhakimi,
danhakimi avatar

Blocking is not a moderator-level function, it is quite personal. You're welcome to continue chatting in the community, just don't reply to me with any more of your hate speech. I don't want it anywhere in my comment thread, I don't have to put up with that shit. Hiding it from me is not a block feature at all, it's a mute feature. I don't want to mute them, I don't want to close my eyes, and pretend I can't see their hate. I want to stop them from pretending to interact with me, I want them to stop posting bigotry in response to my comments, I want them to go the fuck away.

If they invade some other comment thread, there is no risk that anybody will think, "oh, he just couldn't come up with a reply to that last bit of bigotry, I guess the bigot won!" If they annoy others, they'll get downvoted, or the mods will act, whatever—not my business, I'm not looking for a moderation function, I'm looking for a personal function.

I'm not worried about the last word anywhere in the comment section, I'm worried about the last word in my comment thread, where they're directly harassing me. If they have something worth saying, if they have a narrative worth continuing, it'll be worth continuing in some other thread, rather than in direct response to me.

And if every user in the community blocks them, they earned it.

This is not moderation. It's personal.

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