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.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

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:

So satisfying.

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:

Others don't think it's a big deal:

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 ...


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.