Craig Newmark asked for suggestions and here’s some things I came up with:
- Create block functions that actually work and completely block all interaction with a user.
- Create a mute function that doesn’t get tangled in block.
- Respond to abuse reports, generating at minimum an inter-user block, but that when they actually involve any kind of escalation by the abuser, a block of that user from the service (or other highly quarantining action).
- Encourage use of pseudonyms rather than complete anonymity, if only to encourage a stable handle to block by.
- Spam-fighting-like statistical models to detect outlier behavior — repeated first contacts by someone who’s been reported as harassing is one particularly significant sign. Being proactive and confirming with the harassed user might even make sense. “Is @username bothering you?”
- Allow communities to segment when possible, rather than encouraging all users to share one single graph.
- At least three-level privacy controls per account: Public, initial contacts restricted to friends, and all contact restricted to friends.
- Create transparent policies and processes, so we can know how effective the service will be in supporting us if harassed, rather than shouting into the void, wondering if anyone actually reads these reports. If the policies or processes change, say something!
- Do use decoy selections in report abuse forms, but keep it simple: “This is annoying” vs “this is dangerous” can be differentiated, and the decisions about how to handle those should be different.
- Don’t patronize the people you’re trying to protect. Leave choices in the hands of those needing protection when it’s possible. For tools for protection have downsides (social cost, monetary cost, opportunity cost), let those needing protection opt in or opt out. If the tools are independent of each other, let them be chosen à la carte.
And a rule of thumb:
If you spend less time fighting harassment than you do fighting spam, your priorities are wrong. If you take spam seriously and don’t take harassment seriously, you’re making it worse.