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:
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.
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.