If you’ve experienced any harassment on Twitter in the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of Block Party. And if you haven’t, you’re in luck!
Developed by software engineer and tech diversity advocate Tracy Chow, Block Party helps people have a safer experience on Twitter. By building on top of Twitter’s API, Block Party allows users to automate the process of blocking bad actors and create block lists on Twitter. For example, if a particular tweet leads to 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 got a bunch of early validation, is this product going to be useful to people? Is it possible to build on top of the platforms?” Chow told Technology Flow. “The market here is so big, are people willing to pay for it?”
So far, the concept has proven itself. Chou said Block Party has attracted a wide variety of users, including public figures and smaller accounts seeking more privacy controls. As far as building Twitter’s API goes, Chou said Twitter reached out to Block Party early to make sure they could work together.
“It’s great to see that they understand the strategic alignment where building security tools is a win-win-win for an organization like Black Party,” Chow told Technology Flow. “It’s good for the end user because they have better tools to be more in control of their experience.” And that’s good for the platform, because they don’t have to dedicate engineering and product design resources to the cause.
Block Party is available as a free and paid service. As a non-paying subscriber, you can access tools such as “moderate filters” that mute potentially harassing accounts, such as newly created accounts with few followers and no profile photo. Paid subscribers unlock access to features like keyword filters, allowing users to automatically block or mute accounts in their mentions with specific keywords or emojis in their username, display name, or bio. Another paid feature, “Help View”, allows users to assign a friend to help them manage their account settings. Instead of sifting through potentially harmful tweets yourself, this tool lets a friend help you manage your filters, blacklists, and watchlists.
Chow describes Block Party as “middleware,” a term that reflects how users can control their experience on social media through personalized, third-party apps.
“It really sometimes doesn’t make sense for platforms to step into some of these messages in defining what’s acceptable or not. They will be able to define the terms of service,” Chow explained. “But there will be some stuff in between, where individual users don’t want to see that content, but it doesn’t make sense to ban a Twitter user for calling me ugly or stupid.”
Instead of getting caught up in the ideological debate about bad behavior being a punishable crime, users can turn to “middleware” like Block Party to decide individually what content they want to watch. As Chow says, calling someone ugly isn’t against Twitter’s rules — but that doesn’t mean you have to see it in your mentions.
In theory, Twitter could build these filtering options itself. But Chou believes that social media platforms are not encouraged to prioritize security over pure usability.
“I think it’s telling to see constructive incentives. Platforms are incentivized to generate more engagement – that’s their north star,” Chou said. “So they’re going to put all their resources toward that.”
Right now, for example, Twitter faces a legal battle with Elon Musk, where $44 billion is at stake, internal priorities have shifted. Twitter’s health team has been reorganized into a team tasked with identifying spam accounts, The Verge reported, as Musk used fake accounts as a key point in his argument to end the purchase of the platform. So, if Twitter can’t devote as many resources to security as it wants, it can at least block the party.
As Block Party plans to expand to other social platforms, Chow and her team of four full-time employees have assembled a list of strategic investors who can help take the company to the next level. Some of the investors include Twitter’s director of machine learning ethics, Dr. Rumman Chaudhary; ex-Twitter head of product Jeff Seibert; Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp; Former Instagram Head of Growth Bangali Kaba and other veteran social media execs. The round was led by Stellation Capital with participation from Impellant Ventures, Fuel Capital, Goodwater Capital and Hyphen Capital.