Dear Marissa Mayer, Please Give Us a Tool to Better Block Bad Actors on Flickr

As an opinionated blogger, watching Flickr roll out recent changes to the site this past week has been an interesting experience, to say the least.

Thanks, Marissa Mayer, for making Flickr awesome again. Thanks also to the Flickr team who have worked so hard to roll out these changes. The new Flickr is the most photo immersive experience anywhere on the web. It is far more engaging and far more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

Witnessing and countering in the vile hatefest that the Flickr Help Forum has become this past week has also been interesting. Simply for expressing my opinion in a public feedback forum on the new design, I’ve been called a shill, a troll, a sock puppet, a scrotum sack, and many things far worse that I don’t really feel like printing.

I’ve been told that my photography is absolute crap, been accused of working for Yahoo, of being related to Marissa Mayer, of trying to pump up Yahoo’s stock price by supporting the changes — my work, motives and integrity have all been subject to relentless attacks there.

There is little civility in a forum taken over by the ugliest and most vulgar of what the web represents.

The vandalization of Marissa Mayer’s own Flickrstream, and the encouraged vandalism in the same forum, saddens me. To see someone leave an offensive comment on a Mother’s Day Photo, of all things, makes Flickr less of a place to want to spend time.

One Flickr staffer had to actually turn off public comments on his Flickrstream. “You are going to hell,” was the comment that made him turn them off.

There is, at least, a partial answer to this problem: give us a tool to block other users on Flickr.

Flickr already does have a blocking feature of course, it’s just super weak and only prevents someone from leaving a comment on one of *your* photos.

On the other hand, even if you block someone, they can still attack you in all sorts of other places on Flickr, where you spend time. Flickr users should be able to use the public areas of the site without being subject to vile personal attacks. The Help Forum, Groups, other people’s photos, all should be places where Flickr users can visit and feel safe and comfortable.

I left Flickr groups for good a few years back (so did a lot of my friends). The reason why I left was that groups were becoming too ugly. Especially as an opinionated and high profile user, I found myself subject to constant terrible attacks. There was nothing that could really be done about this. Sure, you could report someone violating the Flickr Community Guidelines to Flickr, and maybe 5 days later their account would be deleted, but then they’d just make up a new troll account and be right back at it over and over again.

It was simply easier to just leave the public community of Flickr than to deal with the hate.

When I first joined Google+, I saw some of these same bad actors appear over there, too. I’d watch both myself and my good friends be attacked by others — jealous, petty haters and trolls, mostly. But then Google did a really smart thing. Google rolled out a really strong blocking tool and, just like that, all the hate went away.

You see, on Google+, when you block somebody, they become entirely invisible to you. They are entirely filtered out of all of your views on G+. Poof. Gone for good, not just in your stream, but *everywhere* for you on the site — and that has made Google+ a far better, nicer and more polite place for community than Flickr. Where the Flickr community is a negative hatefest, the G+ community is the most amazing, optimistic, supportive community I’ve ever known online.

You see, blocking the worst of the web doesn’t just filter it out of your view. The more significant thing that it does is it *encourages* civility.

Right now on Flickr we have no power against incivility. People can be as nasty and as rude and as ugly and as disrespectful as they want. They can spam the Flickr help forum with images of excrement (as they actually did last week) and you can’t do a damn thing about it — but if you give us the ability to block these bad actors, then their power is reduced. They know that as soon as they begin the ugliest of hate that the vast majority of positive contributing members will simply block them. Their audience is diminished and soon they are standing on a soap box shouting only to the 10 or so other users who share their hate filled outlook on life.

Before I quit using Flickr groups, one particular nasty member was looking at the photos that I was favoriting (this is forced public and Flickr won’t allow me to control who gets to see it — unlike on G+ where it is private) and this person began leaving vile comments on every photo that I was commenting on. This way, every single one of their comments was showing up in my recent activity, even though I’d blocked them from commenting on my own photos. That’s just wrong.

If Flickr wants to be a place where community can flourish, they need to give us tools to protect ourselves from the hate.

Marissa, I don’t need to tell you how bad the hate can be on Flickr. If you’ve reviewed your own Flickrstream this past week, you know what I’m talking about. It’s deplorable. Especially when any user can so easily just keep making anonymous troll account after anonymous troll account — please, give us a tool to remove the bad actors from our Flickr experience.

This week’s new design work was fantastic, now let’s go to work on improving the community for those of us who want to positively contribute there as well.

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