User Safety at Product Hunt


I want to stop someone from following me on social media. In this case, it's not a stalker or harasser - just someone who's presence I don't need in my life.

This could be worse - they could be a lot more malicious and I could be in a more vulnerable position. I am positively festooned with privilege - so I don't have to worry about my physical safety, but it's annoying and distressing having to constantly filter them from my life. Other people aren't so lucky.

I thought I had successfully blocked them, until they started following me on Product Hunt:

Product Hunt email announcing a new follower
For those of you who don't know, PH is a well-funded site which allows creators to show off their start-ups and other projects. It is, naturally, Silicon Valley in the extreme.

Somehow, they'd found me there. Annoying, but time to hit the block button. What's this? There isn't one.

It's 2017. We've had decades of trolls, harassers, killfiles, and mutes. This multi-million dollar business - which exists in a tech world steeped in misogyny, racism, and ugliness - doesn't see fit to give its users any controls over their own safety.

This is the conversation I had with their support team over the course of several day. All quotes are verbatim, but with the user's name removed.

  • Me: "Someone I blocked on Twitter has started following me here. How can I block this user on ProductHunt? Doesn't make me feel safe."
  • PH: "unfortunately we dont have a way to block users from following on Product Hunt yet"
  • Me: "Please can you remove the user X from following me. I have blocked them on Twitter but there's no way to do that on Product Hunt."
  • PH: "Our site is synced with either FB or Twitter. If X is blocked on those, they will be blocked on PH as well."
  • Me: "Then there is a bug on your code. I have blocked X on Twitter. I do not want X in my life and their presence in my followers list is distressing me. Please remove them from my followers."
  • PH: "Ok, I talked with the team and we don’t have blocking functionality right now unfortunately."
  • Me: "Are you seriously telling me that you don't have the ability to change a single row in your database?
    I find the user's presence on my list disturbing.
    I appreciate that your company is small and not well funded. I know that harassment is a minor problem in the tech industry and therefore it is unusual to have to worry about user safety.
    I am not asking you to ban this user.
    I am BEGGING you to stop them from following me."
  • PH: "We removed them from following you. Sorry for the inconvenience. That's a bummer."

"That's a bummer." Gosh yes, that's the only hecking way I'd describe this situation. What a bummer, dude.

FFS. You wouldn't launch a product without understanding usability, would you? Or launch a product without considering security and accessibility.
It's 2017 - you cannot launch a social product without thinking about user safety.

I'm lucky. I don't have a violent ex stalking me, or a rabid "fan", or a menacing former employer.

What I do have is a platform to call out Product Hunt. Not cool, guys. Not cool.

What do you reckon?