Defense of The Bad Space

The Bad Space exists because its creator, / Ro, once set up an instance by and for Black folk after seeing the racism that got a pass on other instances, and then that instance – PlayVicious – got harassed off fedi by racists. Everyone involved in that instance got extreme levels of racist abuse and harassment, and a couple of the other people involved – a mod of PV, Marcia (, with the help of Ginger ( – started a hashtag, Fediblock, for calling out racism and other shit behaviour so that other instance admins were aware of it, and could block the sources of it, and thus save themselves from being targeted by the same abuse.

A few years later, we now have instance-level blocklists, and the ability to export and import those lists. A bunch of people have started their own blocklist repositories that function in different ways, like combining the blockists of several 'trusted' instances and then finding the common denominators that appear on a majority of blocklists and creating a new blocklist that only has those majority-blocked instances on it.

Where receipts or reasons are not provided with the collaborative hosted blocklists themselves, the sites providing them tend to link to receipts sources that are hosted elsewhere. This is a deliberate choice that comes from hours and hours (literally, I've been privy to these conversations happening behind the scenes with multiple of the public blocklist hosts) of deciding how to approach this with a focus on minimising harassment of the instances providing reasons and receipts, and of the people hosting the blocklists and receipts, and minimising the risk of people threatening litigation for block reasons they don't like (this happens a lot, and while some instances/people are fine with being threatened and know that not much – if anything – will come of such threats, they can still be scary and understandably some instances want to prevent that from happening).

Popping back momentarily to PlayVicious, when the people who were being harassed provided receipts, they were accused of 'screenshot dunking'. The people who were harassing them sought any reason, however tenuous, to dismiss their receipts or to call into question their credibility or attack and bully them into eventually just not posting receipts. This was deliberate, and it happened extensively, and the result is that many folk on fedi are now understandably reluctant to share receipts because of the abuse and backlash they received for doing it the first time.

Speaking as the admin of a sizeable fedi instance with a pretty big blocklist, I can tell you exactly what happens when both our block list and the reasons are public – we still do it, because I don't give a fuck, but here's what happens:

If you've spent any time scrolling through the Fediblock hashtag you'll see the same instances pop up time and again, usually mentioned by new instance admins who've had a run in with one of the 'worst of the worst' instances who discovered they weren't blocked by that particular instance and went on a harassment field day. This has, many times, resulted in people being doxxed and harassed to such an extent that they shut down their instances, deleted their online profiles, moved house, even moved country – and that is the main service that public shared blocklists provide; an effort to minimise the harm that those known terrible instances cause when they are not blocked.

And now back to The Bad Space. The currently public version of The Bad Space is meant to function as a receipts repository, but when Ro launched it, the decision to list every entry there even before receipts were available was informed by Ro's personal experience of harassment spanning years on the fediverse, knowing the harm it causes, and knowing that mitigating that harm by identifying its sources was the most important thing, and the missing receipts would come later (and for the people arguing against the existence of The Bad Space, the receipts wouldn't matter anyway – they argue against it because they know it's coming for them and the spaces they inhabit).

The alternative would have been not to release The Bad Space – not to release any of the blocklists or the receipts sources or things that help fedi admins improve moderation and safety on their instances – until they're 100% perfect, and in the time that would take, how many more marginalised people would be harassed off fedi?

Yesterday, an instance ended up on another instance's block list for what came down to unchecked anti-trans sentiment, which led to it getting a listing on The Bad Space (accidentally, explainer to follow). While parts of fedi exploded with outrage over this, talking around the issue but not bringing it up directly with Ro, theorising and and angry-yelling and ultimately decrying the entire existence of The Bad Space and blocklists as a whole and warning entire communities off using them, a few folk quietly approached Ro directly, Ro discovered a bug in The Bad Space that he fixed immediately, the source instance removed the instance from their block list, the problem has been fixed, and The Bad Space functions better because of it.

The damage caused here is not that an instance accidentally ended up on a blocklist – that IS problematic, especially given the provided reason, and it IS unfortunate – but the bigger damage is that now communities doubt the integrity of a tool that functions to make fedi a safer space for marginalised identities and in doing so makes fedi a safer space for everyone who's not a bigot, that can prevent thousands of people from experiencing the kind of harassment that the tool exists to protect against.

If there are sincere concerns brought up to Ro and other blocklist or receipts repo. maintainers in good faith, they will listen and address them. I have seen them do it. They WANT these tools to be the best that they can be to protect marginalised fedi – that's the entire point, minimising harassment and protecting the people who are most often the targets of that harassment. Nobody is more invested in doing this than the people who experienced that harassment first hand and know the damage it causes.

So if you have an idea for how The Bad Space can be improved (but first check the Version 2 edition ( that, while not fully public yet, already addresses the concerns I've seen raised these past couple of days), bring it up with Ro. Bring it up directly with Ro, who is the creator and maintainer, and will engage with you in good faith if you approach him similarly.

But please, please, consider the implications of loudly decrying a tool that exists by and for marginalised people. Consider whether you're punching up or punching down, consider who you are serving by telling people they shouldn't trust it, consider which voices you are elevating and which voices you are ostracising, and consider how you can effect positive change and help make these tools more effective to combat harassment.

It also needs to be repeated that these public shared blocklists are not shared without extensive warnings for admins to DO THEIR DUE DILIGENCE and not thoughtlessly import blocks without checking that the blocks align with their own instance's practices. The more absurd thing to me is that someone would thoughtlessly import a blocklist – or look at The Bad Space and see that there are entries there without receipts and thus no clear way of knowing why they're there, and then decide to download the CSV of all entries and import that as a mass blocklist – without doing their due diligence as an admin to check that they agree with all of the blocks.