The first release candidate for Mastodon 2.8.0 has spawned quite a bit of discourse around blocks. Up to now, trying to follow a blocked user results in an HTTP error code of 403 Forbidden. This would only happen on valid fediverse accounts if you were blocked, but resulted in bogus bug reports so in PR #10420 it was changed to clearly indicate that you are blocked. You can follow the main arguments around this on Issue #10433, but the short version is people saw this as enabling harassers. One proposed and temporarily merged (before the problems I’m about to delve into were brought up and everything in this mess was reverted to pre-10420) solution was in PR #10422, “Hide blocking accounts from blocked users” but this resulted in the issue I really want to talk about here. This makes the person who first blocks someone the sole arbiter of how long the block lasts, as the person on the receiving end of that block cannot load the account in their WebUI or client app to reciprocate the block.

What made me aware of this clusterfuck was a post I saw in the federated timeline, which had a reply dismissing the problem with 10422 as “rare case scenarios” where someone can’t “spite block” someone who blocked them. At the time I was at work so couldn’t formulate a reply, plus I was pissed at the comment and I also don’t wanna be some rando @ing someone, so I didn’t bother coming back to it. But I’m still pissed at the notion that reciprocating a block is just a spiteful action. It’s a fucking safety feature. And to demonstrate, here is a situation from my own life.

Someone I was friends with at the time was in a Discord conversation with me and gave me the push I needed to make a public statement about a sexual predator on the forum we knew each other from. The predator’s a forty-something year old woman and her young adult girlfriend is another relatively popular member of this forum. The girlfriend and another friend of hers PM my now-former friend that I was lying and they blow up on me in Discord, and before I can respond block me. Like fucking hell was I going to trust that they wouldn’t unblock me to yell at me more, so I fucking blocked the motherfucker back. This wasn’t spite. This was safety from someone who had been turned against me by abusive assholes whispering in their ear. (They later reached out to me through a mutual friend when they talked to a mod who had corroborated through discussion with and getting consent to check the PMs of another victim. I must admit I was spiteful in turning their own words against them telling them to fuck off away from me forever. I’d like to thing I was justified in that.)

So quite frankly, if you’re going to criticize people for not thinking through the safety ramifications of something, you had better fucking think through the safety ramifications of your own argument.

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