Slack: Add a Block Button to Protect Victims of Harassment
Slack offers no real way for a person to be incognito, to mute, to block, or to hide. That puts victims of harassment in danger.
Many of our workplaces provide us with little choice but to run our work lives through Slack. If Slack cares about workplace safety and the safety of people working in teams, in offices, and in organizations, it’s time to add a block button.
Having the ability to mute and block doesn’t change a workplace’s policy—it just helps protect victims.
Why is this important?
“Hey, do you know if I can block someone on Slack?” a friend texted me. Someone at her workplace had a crush on her, and he wouldn’t stop sending creepy messages over Slack—the platform she is required to use for many hours a day to do her job. She therefore couldn’t ignore it every time it pings her with messages, even though they were often from her harasser.
Though she could attempt to avoid him physically in the office, as soon as she opened her computer, her dot would turn green. Because her coworkers need to know where she is, it meant he could see whenever she was online, too. He would immediately start messaging her; she felt like she had nowhere to hide.
As it turns out, Slack does not have the functionality for a user to mute or block anyone.
This is despite the fact nearly every social network now gives you the ability to block someone: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all offer easy ways to mute and block users, and they even have dedicated channels to help users through this process.
But Slack technically isn’t a social network, even if it’s used socially. Slack views itself as a tool, an infrastructure for production and producing. From alumni organizations to conferences and meet ups, it helps businesses and employees plan, document, and work.
The friend I mentioned earlier uses Slack as the main method of communication with her coworkers. Without it, she couldn’t plan meetings, share links, or document her progress for projects. You can’t simply choose not to use that tool without causing a significant workplace fallout.
This is a scenario many women and marginalized groups suffer through: someone makes them feel uncomfortable, but if they raise the issue, it may reflect badly on them for overreacting. So they don’t say anything at all, and continue putting up with the microagressions. Online harassment can affect anyone, but it affects marginalized groups the most.
On most social-media platforms, a victim can block a harasser and file a harassment report. But Slack doesn’t even mention harassment in their policies. In its “Acceptable Use Policy,” it only outlines that Slack cannot be used for inciting hatred or violence against individuals or groups. The company doesn’t have an official page—or even a blog post—on what to do when their product is used to harass people.
Everyone should have the ability to mute, block, and generally augment their experiences online, because having the ability to tailor your privacy settings and how people can reach you creates safety. Ideally your workplace has a system in place to mitigate both online and offline harassment—but what happens if that person doesn’t stop?
It’s time for Slack to catch up with other tech platforms and do more to protect victims of harassment.