Block Party founder and CEO Tracy Chou recently did a couple of “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) online events that surfaced excellent questions about Block Party, how our product works, our vision for the future, and other nuanced discussion topics. This Q&A series builds on her answers from those AMAs. Have more questions? Tweet them to us at @blockpartyapp_ and we will pick some to answer for future newsletters!
Question: Imagine it’s 2025 and we are beyond thrilled with what Block Party has been able to accomplish – what does the world look like?
Our vision is that Block Party enables everyone to feel safe online, so that everyone can participate in digital civic life confidently. In this world, everyone is held to a standard of generosity, thoughtfulness, and curiosity towards each other. No one feels that they will be exposed or targeted by harassment because of who they are, what they say, what they believe, or what they do. Public governance and social norms remind us that the original promise of the internet was “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.” It has been 32 years since Tim Berners-Lee made that proposal. At Block Party, we’re trying to realize a promise that was broken.
Consider why so many people have lurker accounts. Twitter, which is a discourse-oriented social platform, still has a ratio of readers (people who never tweet) to tweeters of around 6 to 1. Although of course it’s okay for people to not want to engage, it is quite a loss to society when people are scared to contribute their most creative and original ideas, and can therefore never truly connect and collaborate.
We know intuitively that social media today paradoxically pressures us to be present online, but often leaves us feeling alone and more reticent to connect with people, both online and off. We fear that the most authentic, unfettered versions of ourselves will come under attack—and we have good reason to believe so. As of January 2020, 44% of Internet users reported having experienced online harassment; a study of online abuse during COVID-19 found that 46% of women and non-binary people reported experiencing online abuse since the beginning of the pandemic, with nearly 1 in 3 of those saying it was worse than before. Unquestionably, online abuse causes emotional and mental distress, with exacerbated impact on younger people.
It is disproportionately women who are targeted by online harassment today—many of them prominent women online, especially journalists, activists, politicians, and other people who are trying to give voice to problems in the status quo and drive change. The whole world is worse off for such people being silenced. With Block Party, our hope is to spark a global behavior shift so that this is not the case. While that may sound grandiose, social media truly is a global phenomenon unto itself and has had huge ramifications for our world. Fixing it could have consequences as large.