Reddit introduces user-blocking tool to fight harassment and trolls

Reddit is looking to shape itself a bit more around the needs of the individual user in order to make the community more accepting as a whole. Reddit users will soon be able to block and mute other users on the site so they can customize their experience, The New York Times reports.

Reddit co-founder Christopher Slowe detailed the changes in an announcement on the site this morning. Slowe chatted briefly about how powerful the platform’s openness has been, but how a need has been growing to more effectively protect users from harassment.

“…Sometimes this very openness can lead to less awesome stuff like spam, trolling, and worse, harassment. We work hard to deal with these when they occur publicly,” Slowe wrote. “Today, we’re happy to announce that we’ve just released a feature to help you filter them from within your own inbox: user blocking.”

This feature is just the latest effort by the site to get a bit more proactive in serving user needs. Reddit has been updating internal processes and policies fairly frequently since Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman returned to the company in the role of CEO this past summer.

Slowe detailed in his post that Reddit actually had a pretty rudimentary blocking system in place before today, but it was more focused on muting private messages from specific users.

The interesting caveat of this blocking feature is that the offending user actually has to interact with you directly in order to be available to block. If someone is trolling other users endlessly in posts you follow, you pretty much have to grin and bear it or try to coax that user to reply to you directly.

Blocked users aren’t notified about the muting so they’ll be less likely to create an alternative account to continue the harassment, Slowe detailed.

Reddit, to most of its users, is an “Internet democracy” in a sincere sense. What this means is that good content is upvoted by its users to the top of a post while bad content is downvoted into oblivion. This new blocking feature sort of throws a kink into that system and may trigger users to just block an offending user rather than downvote them. This feature could perhaps then leave room for trolls to become even more visible to new users unaware of the blocking features.

Slowe maintains this is simply v1 of this feature and the admin team is still looking at a good deal of other options to more effectively protect users and let them protect themselves.

“Our changes to user blocking are intended to let you decide what your boundaries are,” Slowe wrote. “And to give you the option to choose what you want — or don’t want — to be exposed to.”