People who experience harassment on social media know that it’s often not enough to simply block the person bothering them and move on. Harassers will often set up another account or switch accounts to evade the block, and go right on harassing their target.
That’s why Facebook is rolling out new features intended to make it more difficult for harassers to maintain contact with the people they target after they’ve been blocked.
One feature will automatically detect when someone you’ve blocked tries to contact you from a new account or a secondary account that they control, and prevent those accounts from sending you friend requests or messages. The other feature will enable you to move messages from a harasser out of your inbox without blocking them—so they don’t get notified that they’ve been blocked, but you don’t have to see their dumb messages.
When a user decides to move a conversation to their Filtered Messages, the person harassing them will no longer get read receipts but won’t know they are blocked. The user can keep tabs on what their harasser is sending them by checking their Filtered Messages inbox, but they won’t be constantly spammed with notifications.
“We’ve heard stories from people who have blocked someone only to encounter the same harasser using a different account. In order to help prevent those bad encounters, we are building on existing features that prevent fake and inauthentic accounts on Facebook,” the company’s global head of safety Antigone Davis wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.
Davis said Facebook built these new tools in part based on feedback from organisations that represent women, journalists, and other groups who face disproportionate harassment on the platform. Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg thanked the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Centre for Social Research (CSR) India, and YWCA Canada for their contributions to these features, and Facebook says it also considered feedback from 150 safety experts around the world when developing the tools.
Facebook says it will use “various signals,” including a user’s IP address, to determine whether they’ve set up a new account simply to continue harassing someone who’s blocked them.
“The person who blocked the original account is in control, and must initiate contact with the new account in order for them to interact normally,” Davis added.
Facebook says both features are now fully available—so if someone is using Facebook to harass you, go ahead and slam the block button.