Block Party, a tool to combat online harassment, raises $4.8 million in seed funding • TechCrunch

If you’ve experienced any kind of harassment on Twitter in the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of Block Party. And if you don’t have it, you’re in luck!

Created by software engineer and tech diversity advocate Tracy Cho, Block Party helps people create a safer experience on Twitter. By building on the Twitter API, Block Party allows users to automate the process of blocking bad actors and creating block lists on Twitter. For example, if a particular tweet is causing harassment, you can automatically block anyone who likes or retweets that post.

Block Party launched in early 2021, but now the company hopes to expand to other social platforms with the help of $4.8 million in seed funding.

“We’ve had a lot of initial validation in the area, is this product going to be useful to people? Is it possible to build on platforms? Chou told TechCrunch. “How big is the market here, is there going to be a willingness to pay for it?”

So far, the concept has proven itself. According to Chu, Block Party has attracted a variety of users, including public figures and small accounts, who simply want more privacy control. As far as building on Twitter’s API, Chu said, Twitter proactively reached out to Block Party to make sure they could work together.

“Having a company like Block Party building a security tool was great to see them understand a win-win strategic alignment,” Chu told TechCrunch. “It’s good for the end user, because they have better tools to be more in control of their experience.” It’s good for the platform because they don’t have to dedicate engineering and product design resources to the cause.

Image Credits: Block party

Block Party is available as a free and paid service. As a non-paying subscriber, you have access to tools such as “intermediate filters”, which mute more potentially harassing accounts, such as newly created accounts with few followers and no profile picture. Paid subscriptions unlock access to features such as keyword filtering, which allows users to automatically block or mute accounts that match certain keywords or emojis in their username, screen name, or bio. Another paid feature, “Assistant View,” allows users to assign a friend to help them manage their account settings. This tool allows you to have a friend help you block your filters, lists, and watchlists instead of filtering harmful tweets yourself.

Chou describes Block Party as “middleware,” a term that reflects how users control their experience on social media through separate third-party applications.

It sometimes doesn’t make sense for forums to go into some of these messages specifying what is acceptable or not. They can define terms of service,” Chu explained. But in between there’s going to be a lot of things where every user doesn’t want to see that content, but Twitter doesn’t make sense to block a user when they call me ugly or stupid.

Image Credits: Block party

Instead of getting caught up in an ideological debate about what kind of bad behavior is a punishable offense, users can turn to “middleware” like the Block Party to decide for themselves what content they want to see. According to Chu, it’s not against Twitter’s rules to call someone ugly — but that doesn’t mean you should see that in your tweet.

In theory, Twitter could build these filtering options itself. But Chu thinks social media platforms aren’t an incentive to prioritize safety over clean usage.

“I think it’s very sad to look at structural incentives. Platforms are encouraged to generate more engagement – ​​that’s their north star,” Chu said. “So that’s why they spend all their resources on it.”

Now, for example, as Twitter faces a legal dispute with Elon Musk, with $44 billion at stake, internal priorities have changed. The Verge reports that Twitter’s health team has been reorganized as Musk has used fake accounts as a key aspect of the dispute to cut off purchases of the platform. So, if Twitter can’t devote as much resources to security as it wants, it can at least block party.

As Block Party plans to expand into other social platforms, Chou and her team of four full-time employees have lined up strategic investors to help take the company to the next level. Some of the investors include Twitter’s Director of Machine Learning Ethics, Dr. Ruman Chowdhury; former Twitter head of product Jeff Seibert; Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp; Former Instagram Head of Growth Bangali Kaba and other seasoned social media execs. The round was led by Stellation Capital with participation from Implant Ventures, Oil Capital, Goodwater Capital and Hyphen Capital.

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