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Reddit is turning on a new 'block user' tool to help curb harassment

In a move to battle harassment on the site, Reddit today released a new tool for blocking users. The expanded blocking option, the company announced, will hide a user's content but not inform the user that they've been blocked.

Expands on a blocking tool already offered on the site

Although the site previously offered a similar feature focused on private messages, the company is now extending the feature's reach to other parts of the site. "[Y]ou can now block users that reply to you in comment replies as well," a Reddit engineer explained on the site. "Simply click the 'Block User' button while viewing the reply in your inbox. From that point on, the profile of the blocked user, along with all their comments, posts, and messages, will then be completely removed from your view."

It's one in a series of small steps for Reddit, which has been slowly shifting from its niche as a haven for mostly undiluted "free speech." Critics charge that the hands-off management of the site has created a toxic culture, some of which bubbled to the surface during a revolt by users against interim CEO Ellen Pao last year. Pao, under whose tenure the site banned subreddits like "Fat People Hate," eventually stepped down. Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman replaced her, and the site has since continued to make small attempts to curb harassment, such as banning racist subreddits.

Users on the site have been known to raise an outcry after management's attempts to rein in harassment, often accusing the company of cracking down on open discussion. Reddit, however, hinted in its announcement that this was one of several planned changes. "These are just our first steps toward improving the experience of using Reddit, and we’re looking forward to announcing many more," today's announcement says.