1. Computing

The Controversy of Blocking People on Twitter

Twitter unblocks the blocked and then re-blocks them

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Girls blocking people on Twitter © PhotoDune

It’s been an interesting month in the world of Twitter.

One of the most controversial topics has been Twitter’s recent policy flip-flop on its “block” protocol. Have you heard about the controversy? If not, don’t worry; I’ve got you covered.

Basically, blocking people on Twitter became a defunct feature, for a little while.

The official verbiage on what blocking a user means, according to Twitter:

“Blocking will prevent that person from following you or seeing your profile picture on their profile page or in their timeline; additionally, their @replies or mentions will not show in your mentions tab (although these Tweets may still appear in search).”

Twitter made a controversial decision to change the way the block functionality worked. In the past, a blocked person was unable to see any activity from the person that they were blocked by. This means you weren’t able to see a person's Twitter stream, followers, whom they follow and so on. It’s like the person never existed.

So why would you want to block someone in the first place?

Just like in life, the Internet has a whole host of creeps, trolls, and jilted ex-lovers that may try to harass you. The block feature lets you filter out those wackos so you can enjoy the time you spend on Twitter. It makes the platform safer for kids, too.

Twitter recently decided to change how blocking people on Twitter works; They made it more like a mute button. With this new change, blocked users were now able to see your Twitter stream, your followers and the people you followed. The only real benefit was that blocked users were still unable to send direct messages and Tweets to people that blocked them. It was a bit creepy to think that people you blocked could still keep track of what you were doing, though.

The Twitter community went into an uproar over this. Thankfully, the brains behind Twitter came to their senses and reversed the changes made to the blocking functionality back to the way it originally worked on December 13th.

Michael Sippey, VP of Product stated on the Twitter blog that, “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.”

Sippey explained that they initially made the change to the block feature because users were afraid of being harassed by people they blocked. Blocked users are notified that they are blocked by the particular person when they try to view their timeline. This was causing people to be harassed by blocked users on other platforms, and in some cases, at work or in school.

If You’re Having Trouble Blocking People on Twitter

If you are still having a problem with users and blocking them doesn’t help, you can report the abuse directly to Twitter. You just fill out a form and Twitter will investigate.

Twitter is very committed to keeping the community safe. They have a bunch of resources that can help you have a safe experience while using the platform. Twitter has set-up a special profile called @safety. It’s a Twitter profile run by Twitter’s Safety and Trust team. They Tweet about the latest policy changes regarding safety and privacy, as well as assist people that have a Twitter safety concern.

Twitter has also set-up a knowledge base to make your experience on the social network safe and secure. The knowledge base has safety tips for teens and parents and teaches users how to control privacy settings.

Interestingly, Twitter also has a whole section dedicated to helping people who may be at risk for suicide. If you know someone via Twitter whom you suspect may commit suicide or harm themselves, you can alert the Trust & Safety Team here. They will reach out to the person and provide them resources such as hotlines and other online resources to get help. They even supply a list of signs that indicate someone may harm themselves.

Twitter is dedicated to making your experience on its platform safe and enjoyable. I give them a lot of credit for the depth of safety information and protocols they have.

Twitter will always be changing its policies. They’re a fast-moving company with a lot of big ideas on the way we communicate. Twitter has been very good at listening to the community as a whole. If enough people take issue with a new feature change, they will have an open dialogue to find the best solution.

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