What the hell, Twitter? Why the block changes need to be reversed, now

Update: in one of the quickest backtracks ever, Twitter has reversed the changes (see their blog post here). We won! #RestoreTheBlock

The rest of the post will remain below as a record of what happened.

Today, Twitter made a small but incredibly significant change to the way blocking users works on the site. In their own words:

Image

The bit in blue is the really crucial part. Previously, blocking someone meant that they automatically unfollowed you, and if they went to your page, they couldn’t see any of your tweets, photos, videos, links – anything.

Now, since people with unprotected accounts (and I would argue that most people should have unprotected accounts on a social website) tweet publicly, you could get around someone blocking you by logging out and viewing their profile, viewing it in an incognito window, or even making a whole new account if you were bothered enough. People defending Twitter’s new block stance keep trotting this out as a reason why the change doesn’t matter.

BUT.

In my experience, most of the people dim enough to get themselves blocked by me were nowhere near smart enough to know that they could still see my tweets by logging out. And even if they did, it’s a lot more effort than your average troll is going to go to.

With the new policy, for the blockee, nothing changes when they get blocked. They can’t tell they’ve been blocked, they still see your tweets in their timeline, they can still retweet you and tweet at you – it’s just that you don’t see these in your Interactions column anymore.

I have to ask… what the hell, Twitter?

Have you never been harassed?
Have you never had a person obsess about you to the point that you wished you’d never met them?
Have you never wished someone would just. Go. Away?

One of the very best things about social media is the ability to make people disappear at will. That probably sounds a bit Stalin if you’ve never been hassled, but when you’ve had someone follow you for a long time, carefully amassing information that they can use to tear down everything you hold dear – you start to understand why the power behind that little ‘Block’ button meant so much. Even if it was only superficial, clicking that button felt like putting up a shield, and that feeling makes all the difference when you’re being targeted.

Here’s an example. Earlier this year, when my Hyundai blog post went viral, I got four blog comments from the same troll. From what he wrote, it was pretty clear he’d followed me on Twitter for a long time and knew a lot about me – although only things I’d been willing to share on the site.

So after reading about the suicide of my father and how an advert reminding me of it had moved me to tears, he wrote this:

You are a sick fuck for using your old man’s mental illness and subsequent suicide to coldly further your own career in advertising. Fortunately your book says more than “Boo hoo my dad is dead” whining, and your book says one thing: “I am a shit creative”

Fuck you and die you fat ginger cunt. No wonder you can’t get a job, or a boyfriend.

Yesterday, I could have blocked this person from seeing anything I wrote on Twitter ever again. Today, I can’t.

I can only assume the people who work at Twitter are lucky enough to never have been stalked, trolled, or harassed by strangers – or worse, people they knew – on the internet. I’ve long railed against the fact that you can’t block people on LinkedIn (a creepy ex-boyfriend still likes to look up my page every so often, and I can’t stop him) but this is actually worse. Twitter had that functionality, and chose to take it away.

Why would you do that? Who’s benefiting here? People who’ve been complete and utter tosspots to other human beings, and… that’s it. I fail to see how this in any way improves the service for non-trolls. Please, someone enlighten me.

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5 thoughts on “What the hell, Twitter? Why the block changes need to be reversed, now

  1. @samdavisuk says:

    Completely agree! The only way of blocking now is to protect your account – is that what Twitter want – millions of protected accounts? How the hell will I pick who to follow?? I follow new people through seeing retweets.

    Infact, going one further, the retweet would be dead if everyone had protected accounts, so yes, they’ll allow people to fully block people, but in turn, they are forcing us to turn our Twitter experience into something completely shit!

    Twitter are going all Facebook on us.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am gutted to see this. In the not-too-distant past I’ve had issues with harassment, from somebody who wasn’t (isn’t) well. The harassment got pretty dark, with police involvement, but whenever this person took to Twitter it was particularly awful: not only would they bombard me with tweets threatening “vengeance” and violence, but they would also tweet my work Twitter account & the people with whom I was interacting on Twitter, with similar sentiments or to tell them the “truth” about me.

    The block button was my friend. Because the police were involved, Twitter was very good at suspending this person’s Twitter accounts whenever I submitted an abuse report to Twitter HQ. This person would create new accounts all the time, but at least I was able to block them quickly.

    The idea that, if all this starts up again, I can no longer block them and they will have full access to my Twitter activity, really upsets me. As I use Twitter for work, account deletion/protection isn’t really an option.

  3. Amanda says:

    Hi Holly.

    Just thought it might be worth knowing that when you block a person they can still see your tweets when logged in.

    It didn’t used to be that way, but has been for quite a while.

    As an example, I just checked and I can still see your tweets.

    I’m not trying to be anything other than helpful when mentioning this, as I note that you mentioned ‘Yesterday, I could have blocked this person from seeing anything I wrote on Twitter ever again.’ unfortunately this wasn’t the case, hasn’t been for quite a while, and with their change back to how it was.

    I feel wary of posting this in case I get anything not nice back, as I’m feeling very vulnerable at the moment, so again I’m just trying to help.

    Kind Regards
    Amanda

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