Blind is an anonymous social network that has been used by tech workers to speak freely about grievances related to the workplace, among other concerns. Thousands of Tesla employees have signed up for the service, but now the company is reportedly trying to suppress its workers from joining the network.
Verdict reports that Tesla employees were having trouble getting their verification emails to join the service. While Blind does have a public forum, it also allows workers to join an anonymous Blind community specifically for their company. In order to do so, a worker has to be verified by Blind using their work email address. But according to the report, Tesla was seemingly blocking these verification emails to its employees, meaning they wouldn’t be able to successfully join the Tesla community on Blind. What’s more, employees also reported to Verdict that Tesla was blocking Blind on the company WiFi network.
“Tesla is the only company that is blocking its own employees from accessing or signing up on Blind,” a Blind spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. “We found out about this issue through emails from our users, saying they were unable to receive verification emails from us and from posts on the public channel, where already verified Tesla employees raised the issue. Then we looked into the verification rates and we could confirm that Tesla is preventing employees from accessing Blind.”
Blind reportedly became aware of the issue on 4 May after workers weren’t able to verify their work email addresses and join the Tesla group. The spokesperson said that “verification of employment is crucial for our product.” A public Blind post indicates that the issue might have been going on as recently as the end of last month. “Why is Tesla opposed to their employees using Blind?” someone posted anonymously on 24 May. “We can’t access the app on the company network. Have to use phone data instead. And it seems they’re blocking emails from Blind too. I told a couple of co-workers about the app but they haven’t been able to receive a verification code to complete the sign-up process!”
Another Blind user, allegedly a Tesla engineer, commented on the post on 25 May saying that they were “pretty sure verification email doesn’t reach mailbox,” adding that the company was “clearly blocking this internationally.”
An anonymous Uber employee also commented on the thread the same day it was posted pointing out that “Uber did the same when there was a s*** show going on with Susan Fowler and Travis Kalanick.”
Uber did block Blind from the company’s internal WiFi network in 2017, Business Insider reported. Blind’s head of operations Alex Shin told the publication at the time that “Out of over the 100 tech companies active on Blind, Uber has been the only company to make attempts at blocking employee access to Blind.”
Employees across all of the major tech companies are active on Blind, both publicly and in private forums. A Blind spokesperson said that there are over 55,000 users at Microsoft, 38,000 at Amazon, 16,000 at Google, 13,000 at Facebook, 11,000 at Uber, and 10,000 at Apple.
It is certainly not a flawless mechanism that workers can rely on to enact any meaningful change internally, but it does serve as a space for them to anonymously voice their concerns away from official channels. But the allegations detailed on the network aren’t vetted and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. And while anonymously sharing concerns may be cathartic, it’s also a great model for exploitation. This was very much on display after a former Google systems reliability engineer was harassed on the platform after her departure, with hundreds of hateful comments, with many attacking her identity as a transgender woman of colour.
Still, Tesla really messed up by suppressing the use of external network widely used by industry peers to talk about workplace misconduct or concerns. According to the Blind spokesperson, there was “a surge in verification failure” on 4 May, the day after news broke that Tesla sent a threatening email to employees if they leaked any company trade secrets. It’s unclear the exact motivation behind Tesla blocking Blind, but attempting to thwart any leaks about intellectual property or misconduct wouldn’t be wild speculation, given the menacing email from leadership last month.
We have reached out to Tesla for comment and will update this post with its response.
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