User Backlash Makes Twitter Backtrack On Blocking

After one day, user protests force Twitter to reinstate its user blocking policy

Twitter has reversed a change it made to the way users can block each other on the microblogging service, after a storm of complaints that the new policy allowed abusive Twitter users to carry on interacting with the people who had blocked them.

Previously, a Twitter user could block any other user from following them or interacting with their tweets. The new approach introduced yesterday effectively didn’t block the other user – it just made it look to that way to the person who “blocked”  them. A blocked user could still follow and tweet at the person who blocked them, but they were made invisible to that person.

Blue bird, Twitter © ruforester Fotolia

Twitter jitters

Twitter explained that the new “block” was supposed to allow Twitter users to simply ignore other people, without antagonising them and provoking retaliation, by making them aware they had been blocked.

CEO Dick Costolo claimed that the new feature had been requested by victims of abuse, but users complained that the change allowed abuse to continue, and it was reversed after a user revolt prompted an emergency meeting of Twitter executives, reported by Reuters.

Twitter has traditionally been a free-for-all but recent issues such as death and rape threats against British feminists have prompted  the company to introduce a “report abuse” button. It is clearly having to work out just how much, and what kind of policing users want on the service.

In reversing the change, a Twitter statement said: “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.”

The company warned that “users will once again be able to tell that they’ve been blocked,” and said: “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.”

How well do you know Twitter? Take our quiz!