Who should pay for online safety?
Here at Block Party, each new user signup is met with gratitude…and sadness. That’s one of the many conflicts at the heart of building safety infrastructure: although you’re grateful to be able to help people, there’s always a twinge of regret that your product even needs to exist.
This conflict only amplifies when you add money into the mix. Given the crisis of online harassment today, it’s imperative that we have safety tools. On the one hand, solutions cost money to build and maintain. On the other: while that money must come from somewhere, is it right for the people who already have to deal with the problem to take on an additional cost?
Take the example of a woman who feels unsafe using public transit at night. Most would agree that it's unfair for the additional cost of greater safety (taking a taxi or car service home) to fall on her. This same “double tax” applies when those who are being attacked by online trolls are the very ones who have to pay extra for anti-harassment tools just to be able to have a safer Internet experience.
Yet in our current capitalist system, money is the most fundamental way of aligning incentives. The person who pays for a product is almost always the one whose needs are most addressed. So while the issue of online harassment exists on and across platforms, the reality is that the platforms aren’t the customers; rather, the people affected by the problem are.
As with many infrastructure questions, the true solution lies in collective structural change. But that’s neither a satisfying nor helpful answer for the millions of people who experience harassment every year and urgently need some recourse — structural change, after all, doesn’t happen overnight.
In the meantime, we are dedicated to building enhanced digital safety tools that provide immediate relief, while remaining acutely aware that some of the people who need them most are those who do not have the means to pay for them. To that end, we are actively and intentionally working to make our product available to as many people as we can, regardless of ability to pay. Today, that effort takes three forms:
Extensive free tier. Block Party will always provide a free tier to anyone who needs a first line of defense against the trolls.
Comped subscriptions for people with financial hardship. For those who need access to premium features such as block lists, Strict filters, or Helper View, we offer a simple path to request a scholarship. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you right away.
Gift subscriptions so the community can proactively support the most vulnerable. Starting today, we now offer the ability for members of our community to purchase a gift subscription for someone else who is experiencing harassment. Thanks to the many of you who encouraged us to introduce this option — we are grateful that our community is so invested in supporting and protecting the voices of the most vulnerable among us.
We continue to look for new and more comprehensive ways to address this issue, and welcome your input. Together, we can make the internet a safer and more positive place for everyone.