Recently, Sara Mauskopf asked how to block a user on Slack, the popular chat platform. Slack’s social media team replied:
@sm There's no way block DMs, sorry! We're focused on optimizing how teams work together, where a block feature isn't so needed. ?
— Slack (@SlackHQ) August 28, 2016
The response is not helpful. As Mauskopf pointed out, Slack is used in many environments. Communities have adopted Slack as an easy, cross-platform communication tool. Some may have governing bodies, and they should all have a code of conduct, but there’s often only an informal power structure. This means that abusers can go unchecked (and there’s no guarantee that a corporate HR department would be quick to act).
Slack’s self-reported diversity numbers are not as bad as many tech companies. Nonetheless, this strikes me as a failure to empathize with people who face abuse online. I don’t understand how a communication platform in 2016 can not have some kind of block feature. Even Twitter, which has a pretty lousy track record of dealing with abuse, has the ability to block users.
I can understand how some organizations might not want to allow users to block others, but that’s not a good reason to forego the feature entirely. Giving site administrators the option to allow blocking would be a big improvement. Until then, it’s hard to suggest Slack to open communities.