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WordPress Multisite: Block Site

It’s not actually very easy to protect yourself online when you can’t block people who are offensive or abusive.

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This came up when I was looking at WordPress.com, where one has the freedom to post anything within their ToS, and I saw someone’s moronic blog about how specific people were evil. Pick whatever you want, it doesn’t matter except assume it was something offensive to a minority.

The Terms of Use says this:

In particular, make sure that none of the prohibited items (like spam, viruses, or serious threats of violence) appear on your website.

This was not a serious threat of violence, it was just ignorant, offensive, and stupid. I looked at the site and thought “What I want most in this moment is a big ass button to block this person from posting on my .com site, and to prevent them from ever being able to comment on any blog I own.”

It doesn’t exist. (I will note I found BuddyBlock but I have no idea how well that would work, and it’s for BuddyPress only.)

Part of the cool thing about WordPress Multisite is that you can run your own social network. With that power comes responsibility though. Users should be able to protect themselves while remaining on your network, allowing them to block other users they just don’t want to talk to.

So why don’t we? Well effective blocking is hard. As I mentioned in my post about how (most) contact forms fail at this, the biggest issue is people can just fake who they are are try again. This is a little harder on a Multisite, where a legitimate email and account can be required to comment, but by default all members of a network can comment on any blog on the network. This means we’re opening ourselves up to the potential to more abuse.

How would that big block work? There are a few approaches and I think the best route would be two fold.

Blocking Users Blocking Users

Everyone should have the ability to mute or block a user. As an end user, if I never want to see comments from John Smith again, I should be able to press ‘block.’ Then I would just see a note like [comment hidden] whenever I run into a comment from him on any blog on the network. On a non Multisite, I’d actually like to see that for any site that requires registration. Allow users to mute each other.

As an admin, if I block John Smith, then his comments are immediately discarded. If you wanted to get fancy, then you’d hide his comment from everyone who isn’t him, so he thinks he’s still talking to people and just being ignored. A silence mode. Use some JS so an admin has to click to expand and see what’s going on, so if John Smith is escalating, he can be banned.

That would be the other thing. Banning users from your sites on a Multisite should be totally possible. And on .com a way to report “User X keeps working around my blocks.” would help a lot.

Also for admins, perhaps they should be able to see “X people have blocked this user” on the Dashboard. That said, I can see a massive possibility for abuse with that. If John Smith was an admin of his own blog and saw ’10 people blocked you…’ it could cause problems. It would be trivial to hide it from the user, so you could never know how many people blocked you, but I can think of a few fast workarounds. Easiest is to add a second admin account to my own blog on the network and check.

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Blocking Blogs Blocking Blogs

This is mostly an issue on WordPress.com, since it’s one of the few places I know of that has a ‘reader’ that shows you blogs that you might be interested in. That’s how I found the offending blog, by the way. A friend runs a religious blog on .com and the one we both found appalling was a recommended blog to her. I’ve already talked to some people behind the scenes of .com about that and how the algorithm may need some turning. But even if she had stumbled on to it via a search, should she not be able to say “Ew! Block!”

I would write it so that if someone clicked ‘block blog’ the following things happen:

  1. The owner of the blog is blocked from commenting on any blog I own
  2. The URL of the blog is placed on my blacklist
  3. Optionally, all admins of the blog are added to my blacklist

Now I don’t have to see anything anymore.

2 replies on “WordPress Multisite: Block Site”

Facebook takes this further. If you block someone, you can no longer see their comments, even on sites (groups/pages/profiles in Facebook world) that you do not administrate.

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