Blocking used to interfere with curation

The block function can be abused to interfere with curation by preventing curators from commenting on the blocking user’s flags. I won’t discuss any specific incidents on the forum, only describe the ways blocking can be abused in general terms

In some taxon flags, a consensus needs to be reached on what default common name to use, or whether to make a taxon framework deviation, etc. Since blocking prevents the blockee from commenting on the blocker’s flags, this could be used to manipulate the consensus in these discussions by excluding those with a differing opinion from the flagger. This is particularly problematic on taxa that are only monitored by small groups of people. Another related issue is raising a flag, blocking curators who disagree with it, and then making a bunch of similar flags on related taxa, after having already blocking the curators who monitor those taxa who disagree with the rational behind all these flags

There is also the issue of responding to a comment on a flag and then immediately blocking the person you responded to as a means to have the last word

I’m not sure how to deal with this issue? I know contacting staff is an option, but I know they have said that blocking up to 3 people is allowed for any reason, so I don’t know if this is a reportable thing under current rules

I will say I’m skeptical of the benefit of allowing people to block curators from commenting on flags, if a curator’s behavior on flags actually necessitates blocking, I would think they should be removed as curator

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If the blocking interferes with taxon curation - that would be for iNat staff to resolve. Not so?

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Are you saying staff should be contacted about the misuse of blocking or that staff should take over curatorial functions when curators are blocked?

I am going to do the former, but the latter doesn’t work in cases where multiple taxon experts needs to discuss and form a consensus, as happens on many taxon flags.

The first. Don’t we have a rule not to use blocking to resolve an argument about IDs ?
(Taxonomy curation needs taxon specialists)

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This thread seemed to cover this. Even the title matches!

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I don’t know the other side of that story - but it ends here

The workload involved with curating a taxon is daunting

https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/joe_fish/74452-taxonomy-strike

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That seems less of an end and more of an attempt to change the litigation courtroom.

(I have no skin in that particular game, being neither a curator nor a taxon specialist. The aquatic world is particularly unknown to me, but if the blocking of one party by another sends widespread ripples through any taxon, perhaps the solution is to find or train additional taxon specialists, so that the effect is minimized.)

edit to add: Please note I only skimmed the opening para of the journal post and did not even attempt to wade into the kablillionty comment discussion, since I am ridiculously unqualified.

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We have an instruction not to use blocking this way, but I don’t think this is enforceable, I was blocked explicitly over ID disagreement at one point and remember being told that one can block 3 users for any reason. Also, my post is not about an ID issue but a taxon flag issue

That thread is using “curation” to mean IDing all obs in a taxon, and is saying that being blocked by an observer prevents them from IDing all obs in a taxon

What I am referring to is different, I am referring to a user blocking a curator or taxon expert and then raising taxon flags so that the curator or expert cannot comment on the flags, this is not just a “leave my own obs alone” block, but an attempt to exclude certain people from a taxon flag discussion that will affect the taxonomy (or common name) across the entire site

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Did you see the part at the bottom of the first post, where it says solved by cthawley in post #24?

I would recommend emailing help@inaturalist.org about this (or any) specific case where a user is unsure if blocking is appropriate or there’s the potential that it is being used incorrectly. Staff wouldn’t post the details of specific cases of blocking on the forum, so it’s best to address via a personal message.

Did you see tiwane’s explanation in post #47?

So, we’ve made this compromise: a three block limit. Like all compromises it’s not perfect but we think it provides a mechanism that helps people feel safe and empowered, and allows them to remove themselves from potential conflicts without being able to do so at a large scale.

The limitations of blocking are acknowledged. The persistent demands for exclusions to blocking for certain individuals (taxon specialists or curators or or or) are immaterial.

The potential effect of the blocking on a chosen workload matters not, but if you believe you have been unfairly blocked, contact Staff. They have reviewed and reversed blocks before when they have determined the block to have been applied maliciously. (See post #47.)

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The three block limit does not meaningfully address the problem I brought up, 3 people is a very meaningful fraction of the taxon specialists who are active in flags on some taxa. Off the top of my head I can think of 2 currently active curators who regularly handle taxon flags for wasps

I am not in any way demanding curators or taxon specialists be unblockable, I did suggest that it may be better if blocking a curator did not apply to comments on flags
That said, while I am not familiar with the demands you refer to, if people are persistently demanding changes to a particular policy, that could be a sign that something about that policy or how it is implemented causes problems

I will email staff about the misuse of the block function

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It seems like contacting staff is best in this individual case, since the examples provided seem quite specific and trying to avoid giving specifics (which is of course appropriate for the forum) makes it difficult to discuss generalities which might be more broadly applicable.

As folks have pointed out on the other threads cited, there are definitely challenges that the blocking function poses because it is a powerful functionality. Balancing that with site functioning (ie, creating a general policy that is beneficial overall) is a difficult task, and I don’t think there’s any perfect way to implement blocking that avoids all issues. In general, my interpretation is that the current policy inherently accepts that there might be some limited cases in which blocking could be used manipulatively, but because allowing limited blocking is really key to the safety of some users, the small potential for manipulative use is a necessary cost to pay for that larger benefit.

On a side note, I’m going to change the title of the post here from “abused” to “used”, because to me “abused” implies a determination that another user is engaged in bad faith behavior. We’re asked to assume that others mean well (even if we suspect this might not always be the case), and the term “used” still retains the meaning of the thread.

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I think there should be some way to address clearly manipulative use, and I see no reason why it is necessary to ignore manipulative use in order to retain the benefits of the block function

In addition, my original post does not discuss a specific case, but describes multiple possible bad faith uses of the block function, including hypothetical examples, the original title was not an accusation directed at anyone, but a general statement that blocking could be abused

I am aware of a specific case of what I think is improper blocking, but I’ll email staff about that after the holiday weekend, and meant this post as a more general discussion of blocking policy not any sort of accusation (I’m not asking you to un-edit the title, I just want to clarify that I’m not trying to accuse anyone on the forum)

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Seems pretty obvious to me that curators have different rights and obligations than the rest of us for good reasons. I don’t get how setting a different scope for blocks applied to curators is any different than the other privileges that go with the Curator designation. Block a curator from IDing or commenting on your observations? Sure, I guess, but given the responsibilities that go with being a curator and the challenges of finding curators it seems pointless. Block a curator from discussing a taxon flag? That really shouldn’t be allowed.

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Your reasoning is sound, but “misused” would also remove the implication of bad faith behavior while being a more accurate description.

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