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Tech

Power To The Users: The Anti-Bullying App Muting Online Trolls

February 15, 2021

Words by Serena McSweeney | Image Credit Maxie_elizabeth

While the romanticising of cancel culture has left many users feeling empowered with a newfound sense of power, it has also started glorifying and normalising vicious online trolling and verbal attacks, setting a very dangerous and toxic precedent.

Online trolling has long been a challenge since the development of social media platforms.

With the online world being very much an unregulated space, it can leave many users feeling unprotected, violated and lonely from the comments and actions of other users, both known and anonymous. A survey conducted by the Australia Institute found that more than one-third of Australian internet users (equivalent to 8.8 million individuals) had experienced at least one form of harassment online. 

Users shouldn’t be pushed off these spaces because of the actions of others or because of the inability of large companies like Twitter to regulate their spaces, and this is exactly what inspired Tracy Chou to create her anti-harassment application Block Party.

Block Party is exactly what it sounds like. Twitter users can link their accounts to the application and set personal filters, such as not seeing comments from people with no profile picture or only hearing from verified users.

Once these filters are set up, the application will send any comments that don’t pass these filters into a folder coined the ‘Lockout Folder’. Chou thought it was important to make sure these comments were not completely deleted for users, as some comments may be wrongly filtered or sometimes, in more serious cases, these comments can provide evidence (say, if reporting). The application is free for users and, although only currently Twitter-compatible, has plans to be across multiple social channels in the future. 

There are many things that make Block Party special. Firstly, it allows for users to grant access to their Lockout Folder to third parties, such as family and friends, allowing an individual to continue to censor themselves from unwanted comments.

Many studies have found that social media has caused higher rates of depression, anxiety and loneliness for individuals. Furthermore, almost 25% of adolescents say that social media has had a mostly negative effect on their lives. As younger generations are spending an increasingly more amount of time online, censoring these comments is a vital step in starting to regulate the online world to safeguard ourselves and the generations most vulnerable to these trolls. 

Secondly, Block Party helps to take away the burden placed on social media users. Currently, many of these big social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, require users to individually go through and delete, report or block comments and users themselves.

By automatically filtering the comments for Block users, and delegating access to their Lockout Folders to others, it takes away the onus of the users to protect themselves against the actions of others, simultaneously regaining their power online while muting the trolls to make for a safer online world. 

Block Party is the app filtering the unfiltered. If the social media giants won’t step up to protect their users, we’re lucky to have people like Chou who will. Block Party allows us to regain control and start using these online platforms for what they were designed for – a place to connect with people all over the world in a positive way and to freely share parts of our lives without fear or judgment. 

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