BLUF Backstage: Message blocking and harassment

BLUF • policy

Submitted by Nigel, aka SubDirectory (3), 15 May 2015



Unlike many other sites, BLUF doesn't have a button on profiles that you can use to block other members from sending you messages. It's something that, from time to time, people ask about, and so in this Backstage blog, I thought I'd set out why we don't have one, and how we deal with the issues that usually lead to people wanting to use it.

This, it has to be said, is how the situation stands now. There's nothing to say that it won't change in future - as any group of people grows, the mechanisms for dealing with disputes will have to change, and it becomes less easy to handle things in an informal way than it is with a small group.

Why not just have a block button?

On the face of it, block buttons seem like the easiest solution to preventing harassment. However, after many years of experience, I'm not convinced that they're always the best solution for a site like BLUF, which aims to be more of a community than just a place to pick up online.

That's because, as well as the obvious way of using them to block people who have been abusive to you, they get misused. Spend time on some sites, and you'll come across all sorts of odd behaviour - people send a rude message, and block you so you can't reply. Or they look at your profile, and block you, despite never having met or talked with you.

On a site that's aimed at just finding someone to have sex with, perhaps some people think "let's save time and block people I don't want to fuck", but personally I think that's a pretty ruthless approach. And it's certainly not the sort of behaviour I want to see on BLUF. No one's so precious or so gorgeous that they should be able to ban others from saying hello.

If you don't fancy someone, tell them politely. If you need a block button to do the job for you, my own view is that you may want to reassess your own level of emotional intelligence.

At BLUF, I hope we're building a community, rather than just a place to get laid. And that's one important reason why we don't give people the option of blocking someone without any good reason, or the option of permanently blocking messages between two people.

I hope the points below explain how our system on BLUF works, and why we do things the way we do. Ultimately, it is founded on the basis that BLUF members are adults, and we expect them to act accordingly. Be polite to people, and if they ask you to stop contacting them, respect that.

But what about harassment?

The only good reason for blocking someone is to stop them from harassing you online. And, frankly, we take a pretty dim view of harassment and abuse. We don't allow you to use a BLUF profile to make comments about someone else, and harassing other members will, ultimately, get your profile deleted. This is covered by our membership rules (number 5).

In the first instance, if someone is persistently sending you messages on BLUF, we suggest that you ask them to stop - politely.

If they continue, then click the 'Report profile' button on their profile, to send me an email, and outline the problem. The button is the red exclamation mark at the bottom right of the Quick Info box.

What happens then?

If you complain about another member, then I will ask that you tell them to stop messaging you. If you have not taken this simple step, it is very unlikely I will be able to do anything.

If you have done so, and they have not stopped, then we can place a temporary block on messages between you and that member. Neither of you will be able to send messages to the other for 15 days.

The site admin system is set up so that this block can only be added if you have exchanged messages with the other member - ie at least one message in each direction - within the last 30 days.

Why not a permanent block?

We believe that a community is best served by people co-existing, and being civil with each other. The 15 day message block is intended to allow for people to calm down and gain a sense of perspective. If, after that period, someone still continues to contact a member who has asked for them not to do so, then they will be considered to be harassing that member and may, ultimately, have their BLUF profile deleted.

Why can't a block be put in place at any time?

We impose a limit on when a block can be put in place because we think it should be easier to talk than to block. If you've had a message from someone you're not interested in, please tell them you're not interested, rather than asking me to block them. If they've been rude, please ask them to desist.

What happens if someone tries to message me when they're blocked?

They will receive an alert in their inbox notifying them that they can't send messages, because they have been blocked. You will receive the same response if you try to message them. The message that was composed will be lost.

Someone was rude to me on another site, can you block them on BLUF?

As a general rule, no. I don't know what's gone on on another site, so I don't think it's appropriate of me to take actions on BLUF based on what is effectively hearsay. There may be some exceptions to this, but they will generally be at my discretion.

Can you stop someone looking at my profile?

No, sorry, we can't. That would be a huge amount of extra programming for a tiny number of cases - the vast majority of times, it wouldn't solve anything, so why bother?

Can admins read the messages on BLUF?

If you are complaining that someone is sending you abusive messages, I may review the messages between you and that person. After all, it's quite possible for someone to complain, when they're the person who threw the first stone.

So, if you complain about receiving harassing messages, and ask me to take action, I consider that you are implicitly giving me permission to read the messages that you are complaining about, and those you have sent in response.

To be absolutely clear, this is not something that happens in the normal course of events, and is only likely in the case of persistent harassment, for example, if someone continues to misbehave after messages have previously been blocked. It is very much a last resort, and I feel dirty having to do it. It is not something that any other BLUF admins have access to.

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