Disable private messages

This potential anti-harassment feature — the ability to turn off private messages — was raised by at least a couple people on the Google Group and recently on Twitter.

To head off some comments, I don’t think it will be productive for people to chime in “I’m not being harassed and don’t need this feature”, since you are clearly not the target audience that this would help. Thanks!

Wouldn’t it be better to just have the ability to block people from messaging you? I can’t see any good reason why you would need or want to disable private messages period. A lot of people would just tick that given the option, for “privacy” reasons, and that wouldn’t be useful for anyone who actually needs to contact them.

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There have been times in my life when I’ve been so busy I just didn’t respond to most messages, and felt guilty about it. During those times, if I was using iNaturalist, I would have gladly turned off messages so no one would message me and expect a reply. I agree the ability to block (and report) individuals who harass should be a compliment to the ability to opt out entirely.


That’s a good point about a sort of hard “out-of-office” signal :)

I’m not sure myself the particular anti-harassment use cases for this feature and am more passing it along from the concerns of others. To clarify, there is already the ability to block another user in one’s account settings, accessible from the iNat website.


Blocking someone prevents them from messaging you, commenting on your observations, identifying your observations, and otherwise interacting with you on iNaturalist.org. It also removes their observations from your search results and removes your observations from their search results. However, it does not make you invisible to them. They can still find your observations and view your profile, they just can’t interact with you.

Blocking is for situations where you just can’t get along with someone and they won’t leave you alone, despite your best efforts to settle disputes in a civilized manner. It is not a way to hide from people, to prevent identifications from people whose opinions you don’t trust, or to opt out of the community ID (there’s another setting for that). Thus, blocking works both ways: if you block someone, they can’t interact with you, but you also can’t interact with them. If you misuse it to prevent someone from identifying your observations, you also prevent yourself from identifying their observations.

You can only block three people. We think this is a reasonable number that accommodates the people who need blocking while preventing abuse of blocking. If you feel you need to block more people, please contact us.

If someone is harassing or stalking you on iNaturalist.org, please let us know. If this represents a violation of our Terms of Service or represents other behavior we deem inappropriate for our site, we will investigate.


Another potential anti-harassment solution could be the option to “only allow PMs from users you follow”. This could reduce potential harassment while still allowing limited engagement with trusted users.

If such options are ever implemented (and I think options are good, since every person’s situation is different), I do think it should be emphasized that iNat is a community-based website and that it is recommended to leave PMs open except in situations of harassment, etc.


I agree, though I assume that if PMs could be disabled, discourse would still be fully possible in the comment section of Observations (and may even arguably be more community-based since everyone on the site can participate, not just two people).

If I had any votes remaining I would support this function. The internet can be a scary, invasive place. iNaturalist should be as fun and safe for its users as possible.


That makes more sense to me than preventing all PMs, so perhaps ppl can have 3 choices, Block, Allow, Allow from followed/trusted users only.
(BTW, we have 100 votes now! )


Closing this thread as we won’t disable private messages, at least not now. I follow flagged messages, and only a tiny amount are ever flagged for being inappropriate. You can block someone if you don’t want them messaging you. If it becomes a more widespread issue, please let us know.