Some updates to blocking and muting

iNat staff have decided to update our policy in regard to blocking other users: you can now block up to three users for any reason. Blocked accounts will not be able to message you, comment on your observations, identify your observations, or otherwise interact with you on iNaturalist. 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. This is intended to protect against stalking, harassment, and unproductive conflict.

With this simplified policy, staff will not intervene or investigate blocking. Here’s how we came to this decision.

Some background: blocking was implemented in 2016, about eight years after iNat launched, motivated by emails to us from people concerned about stalking and harassment. The intent of blocking is to prevent someone who has threatened you or caused you harm in the past from re-traumatizing you by interacting with you on iNat. That includes adding identifications to your observations. Even something as innocuous-seeming as adding a correct ID to someone’s observation could be a subtle way for a harasser to let that person know they’re watching them.

However, we anticipated that blocking would be abused to avoid identifications from people you don’t agree with or simply to punish people you don’t like but have not threatened or harmed you. In an extreme case, blocking every person who tries to ID your observations would circumvent our crowdsourced quality controls. This kind of behavior would undermine the collaborative curation we promote, but we also need to allow people to safely use iNat without harassment. As a compromise, we added two limitations that you won’t find on sites like Twitter or Facebook: you can only block up to three other accounts, and we specified that blocking is not for preventing someone from identifying your observations because you don’t like or trust their identifications (the way to deal with this is by opting out of the Community Taxon). We also said iNaturalist staff would investigate instances where blocking was used inappropriately.

We haven’t received many complaints about potentially inappropriate blocking in the last seven years, but the instances where we have investigated have shown us it’s not really possible to do so effectively and safely. Asking people about why they blocked someone defeats the legitimate purpose of blocking by bringing up very personal unpleasant experiences or feelings, which is not something we want to or should be doing. It also means staff has to make a judgment call about someone’s motivations without evidence that can be independently evaluated. Therefore, blocking three other accounts for any reason is now allowed, although we strongly discourage it as a means to prevent someone you don’t like or don’t trust from identifying your observations. If you feel that it’s necessary to block a fourth user, you can email but we will require an explanation with this request.

Muting (meaning one isn’t notified by another user’s actions on iNaturalist) is another tool to minimize conflicts or frustration that may arise on iNaturalist, so we’ve made some user interface changes to more prominently display the muting functionality.

  • There is now a mute button on profile pages.

  • On the Relationships page in Account Settings, Muting now appears above Blocking, so you’ll see it first.

iNaturalist has both social and data quality aspects to it. We wish blocking was not necessary at all, but this is a compromise that we hope allows people to use iNaturalist and feel safe while preserving the opportunity for community review by limiting the number of blocks.


Out of curiosity, what’s actually new about this? It’s been possible o block only three users for as long as there was blocking, and to mute as many as needed. Is the news that now there is a policy in writing?


A change in policy and the updates to make muting more visible. No change to functionality when it comes to blocking.


As someone who has been blocked by people trying to get around my IDs, I really do want to voice my opinion that I do not like this change.


and @joe_fish who is on a taxonomy strike.
And suspended in the forum.


I am having trouble figuring out the distinction here. So people who have blocked you will not have their observations appear on Explore or Identify features? How would they find your observations then?

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Pretty much all public content on iNat is viewable regardless of whether or not you’re logged in.


These forum posts are also public.

what change are you objecting to?

I don’t like that I can be blocked for any reason. I know this isn’t new but it also makes me really uncomfortable to know there are users posting observation that I cannot at least see.


@raymie you can see them:

I have been harassed by someone on the site and they are still on the site, so i wish they couldn’t see my observations, to me that seems more concerning that someone trying to avoid one person’s IDs on a rare occasion

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I cannot see observations from people who have blocked me on the explore page (for example), or at least I couldn’t (not sure if anything has changed).

I don’t really see any issues with someone who has been harassing someone else being able to see that person’s observations as long as they can’t interact with them (but that isn’t what’s happened to me).

iNat is about open data, so the observations are viewable even if one is not logged in. That’s why blocking only prevents interactions on iNat. If you really feel the need to see observations from people who’ve blocked you, then open up a private browser window or just log out in your current window and use the Explore page.

Yes, but as I mentioned above iNat is about open data and sharing. Even if this person was not on iNat, they could still see the observations. This is why we say that iNat’s not a way to collect secret information.


Every iNat observation is a public record of where you were in a time and place. If someone was stalking you, for example, they might be able to discern a pattern in your behavior and harrass you or harm you. This is an unfortunate reality for many people. It’s why iNaturalist doesn’t require people to use their real names, and why observations can be manually obscured or made private. That obviously doesn’t remove all risk, as Charlie mentioned, but it does provide some mitigation for risk.


I would really prefer not to have to log out every time I want to look at an observation map. But if the harasser (is that a word?) can already see a person’s observations with one simple extra step, then what’s the point of hiding it in the first place?

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Does muting someone mean that you won’t get notifications when they make an ID on someone else’s observation that you’ve commented on? I often leave a comment when marking captive/cultivated observations, and then sometimes someone will decide to ID all the captive domestic dogs/cats/lions/rhinos/humans over a period of days and I’ll end up with dozens (sometimes hundreds) of notifications that do not require my attention and potentially cause me to miss ones that do.

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Yes I think that would work. I have muted people for the opposite situation; I made several IDs of one species, and then they went through the whole species leaving the same comment over and over.


@bouteloa had an earlier thread about that
@bouteloua tada autocomplete noticed I missed the second U

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I like it, don’t get why is it a problem if you can’t see something, there’re millions of other users who can check those observations without help of 3 users who got blocked by the observer.


I like the mute button part a lot because I think it’ll divert people from immediately going to blocking over things that don’t necessarily need to lead to blocking. I understand that those things vary person to person but I’ve been blocked for “the way I talk” before, amongst other things that I found a little flimsy (my opinion though, obviously) for example. I talk quite politely, so I wasn’t really happy with that but didn’t care enough to start a hubbub about that, or about anybody else doing anything similar. I was bothered more so when I was later tagged in one of these user’s observations by another user to help, and I couldn’t do anything because I was blocked. But I had never had any real conflict with this person and didn’t even recognize them.

Again, it’s all relatively minor, nothing to get up in arms about, but it can be frustrating, so I like that this might help limit or avoid that kind of thing.


Can you give an example of your experiences? I’m curious as to why some people get so angry if their ID is challenged.