Twitter Blocking Was Pointless, But Now It's Not
Update: Twitter has decided not to change its block function after all. People will once again know you blocked them.
Ah, Twitter Blocking. The tool of choice for the social-media-savvy-but-passive-aggressive user (also for people who keep getting spammed and don't want to see cheap iPad offers filling up their @ mentions).
Blocking didn't do much, really. Unless your account was private, the blockee could still see your tweets. He just couldn't follow or re-tweet you. But it was comforting to know that you slightly inconvenienced your blockee, wasn't it?
Perhaps best of all, he'd know you blocked him because if he tried to follow you, this happened:
But no longer! Yes, Twitter has changed its blocking policy. Now, it says, "if you block another user, that user will not know that you have blocked them."
With this new policy, unless your account is protected, the blockee can still follow you, add you to lists, see your tweets in his timeline, etc. The blockee can see everything!
As for the blocker ...
When you block them, you will no longer see:
- The user in your follower list
- Any updates from that user in your Home timeline, including any of their Tweets that were retweeted by accounts you follow
- Their @replies or mentions in your Connect tab
- Any interactions with that user's Tweets or account (i.e., favorites, follows or Retweets) in your Interactions or Activity tabs
... which effectively renders block useless. Or, as BuzzFeed's John Herrman writes: "Blocking is no longer an assertive act that sends a clear 'I don't want to talk to you' message. It's just a quiet button."
People are furious:
I have people who have harassed and threatened me blocked. Did they really get rid of the block? @twitter if so I have go delete my acct.— Amanda (@AWitchyChick) December 13, 2013
The new Twitter block policy is like hearing men sexually harass women in the street and giving the women earplugs. #RestoreTheBlock— Joseph Nobles (@BoloBoffin) December 13, 2013
Have yet to see a plausible explanation how the new block policy helps anyone but the people who were getting blocked.— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) December 13, 2013
Dear @twitter The new block policy will allow users that make threats to perpetuate the behavior. Have you not studied their hive behavior?— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) December 13, 2013
Dear @Twitter , #RESTORETHEBLOCK is happening because your new block policy facilitates a spectrum of abuse on your service. Please listen.— Warren Ellis (@warrenellis) December 13, 2013
Not having block is an inconvenience for me, but a genuine danger for others. #RestoreTheBlock— Jacques Frost (@jephjacques) December 13, 2013
As a victim of cyberstalking, @Twitter, I beg you to reverse the changes to the block feature so I can protect myself http://t.co/kAlEYA643L— Stephanie Haberman (@StephLauren) December 13, 2013
You can still manually block people by having them killed.— Alison Forns (@alisonforns) December 13, 2013
Trans women don't just get messages of hate; they are threatened daily. A useless block function puts their lives at risk, @twitter.— Lauren Rankin (@laurenarankin) December 12, 2013Other
Others don't think it's a big deal:
Re block backlash: If you have a public Twitter account & used "Block" to keep ppl from reading your tweets, you were doing it wrong.— Kashmir Hill (@kashhill) December 13, 2013
Personally, I think the new way Twitter handles blocks makes a lot more sense and will be more effective. http://t.co/BVWfxcIWf3— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) December 13, 2013
As a woman who was stalked and under police supervision for 3 mos, Twitter's block status changes wouldn't have stopped the stalking.— Erin Doland (@erdoland) December 13, 2013
On the plus side, organizations/individuals can't block journalists from following them w/o privatizing accounts http://t.co/qZENEua3Ne— John McQuaid (@johnmcquaid) December 12, 2013
told Forbes' Kashmir Hill that the change was made to help victims of Twitter harassment, not hurt them:
'We saw antagonistic behavior where people would see they were blocked and be mad,' says Prosser. He also says 'block' doesn't really make sense when the content is still visible. 'Twitter is public, we want to reinforce that content published in a public profile is viewable by the world.'
... or just reinforce it to the advertisers it needs to bring it to profitability, as will soon be demanded by all those new shareholders.
Update, 10:47 pm ET: Looks like all those angry tweets got to Twitter. It just announced that it's going back to the old block rules and pretending this whole thing never happened:
Earlier today, we made a change to the way the 'block' function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.
In reverting this change to the block function, users will once again be able to tell that they’ve been blocked. We believe this is not ideal, largely due to the retaliation against blocking users by blocked users (and sometimes their friends) that often occurs. Some users worry just as much about post-blocking retaliation as they do about pre-blocking abuse. Moving forward, we will continue to explore features designed to protect users from abuse and prevent retaliation.
We’ve built Twitter to help you create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. That vision must coexist with keeping users safe on the platform. We’ve been working diligently to strike this balance since Twitter’s inception, and we thank you for all of your support and feedback to date. Thank you in advance for your patience as we continue to build the best – and safest – Twitter we possibly can.
Sure enough ...