Slack is a hugely popular messaging app, but is missing one of the most basic of messaging features: a block button.
Now, on the heels of campaigning by Mozilla, Fight for the Future, Convocation Research + Design, and dozens of ally organizations, that may be changing.
On July 5, Slack announced it would soon be introducing a “Hide messages from another member” feature, allowing people to “support their needs for a safe and productive work environment.” This comes shortly after a group of 96 rights organizations sent a letter to Slack demanding the company protect its users by offering basic safety mechanisms, like blocking and the option for end-to-end encryption.
Slack is a hugely popular messaging app, but is missing one of the most basic of messaging features: a block button. But now, that may be changing.
Reem Suleiman, Mozilla
Mozilla applauds Slack for taking this important step forward that would give people the choice to disengage if things become unsafe on the platform, and urges Slack to implement the feature with stakeholder input, as soon as possible. This safety feature is a welcome anti-harassment mechanism that’s protective, whether someone uses Slack to interact with colleagues, organize volunteers, or start up their own personal project.
In May, Fight for the Future and Mozilla launched petitions calling on Slack to #BlockAbuse by introducing a block feature, especially as research revealed that remote workers — in particular people with marginalized identities — are experiencing increased harassment and hostility online. The effort was launched alongside researcher Caroline Sinders and others, and the petitions garnered a combined 31,434 signatures.
Also in May, Mozilla, Fight for the Future, and others protested outside Slack headquarters, with a mobile billboard that read “Slack Isn’t Safe.”
Says researcher Caroline Sinders: “Hiding messages is a great safety and pro-privacy feature. But, for a lot of harassment cases, this is still not enough. We hope the roll out of this feature ensures victims of harassment have the ability to block all individual communications, including within Slack channels, to truly be safe. More importantly, while a feature announcement is great, the feature isn’t shipped yet. We will also be watching to see whether Slack will launch this in all countries, or just a select few.”
Says Caitlin Seeley George, Fight for the Future: “If this update is a sign that Slack is taking the safety of its users more seriously, then we definitely support it. But we need more and hope Slack leadership finally opens its door for collaboration and conversation. Nearly 100 rights organizations have asked for critical safety and security features, including end-to-end encryption of messages, and so far Slack hasn’t been willing to engage with these experts, researchers, and advocates. We continue to call on Slack to meet with us so we can discuss our concerns and ensure this new feature actually makes people safer.”
Whether someone is required to use Slack for work or chooses to use Slack for fun, they shouldn’t have to risk abusive communication as part of the deal — and we’re glad that’s changing soon.
Reem is the US Advocacy Lead for the Mozilla Foundation