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Reddit steps up fight against trolling and harassment with new user-blocking tool

Reddit is implementing a new feature that it hopes will protect users from spam, trolling, and harassment. Essentially an update to its existing blocking tool, users can now block and mute individuals that reply in comments alongside private messages.

Now, when Reddit users receive unwanted or abusive comments, they can simply click the ‘Block User’ button while viewing the reply in their inbox. From that point on the profile of the blocked user, along with all their comments, posts, and messages, will be completely removed from view. Additionally, the block is “completely silent” to the blocked user, with Reddit hoping that its discretion will prevent individuals from creating multiple accounts to bypass the tool.

Related: Reddit warrant canary raises privacy concerns

“Our changes to user blocking are intended to let you decide what your boundaries are, and to give you the option to choose what you want — or don’t want — to be exposed to,” states Reddit co-founder Christopher Slowe in an announcement posted on the site earlier today.

Reddit’s open approach to its forum-like threads (known as ‘subreddits) has caused much controversy over the years as the racist, misogynistic, and downright nasty behavior of the extreme portion of its community has come to the fore. Last year, its then CEO Ellen Pao resigned after being incessantly trolled over her stance on regulation. Before that, in 2014, the site was embroiled in a celeb photo hack, which saw Reddit users post nude photos that were cause for alarm and embarrassment for the victims.

Despite announcing that more changes “toward improving the experience of using Reddit” are on the way, the site is well aware that its open, “democratic” (if not discerning) nature is integral to its popularity. Therefore, too much change could ultimately alienate its devoted user base. “People, generally, do not like change,” Reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian told the New York Times. “We have to do what is best for Reddit overall.”