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Twitter Does an About Face on Its 'Blocking' Change

Twitter Does an About Face on Its
December 13, 2013 10:13AM

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When Twitter relaxed its block function, it created an uproar among users. That backlash and user revolt against the changes to its blocking function made Twitter recognize that it had made a mistake, which it immediately and wisely reversed, said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence.

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In one of the fastest turnarounds in social media policy, Twitter backpedaled on the blocking function it introduced just hours earlier. On Friday morning, the microblogging service made a change to the way its so-called “block” function works.

Michael Sippey, vice president of Product at Twitter, quickly moved to let the angry masses know that the company was returning to status quo, reverting the changes to block functionality.

“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,” he wrote in a blog post on Friday morning. “Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.”

Twitter Users Revolt

Here’s the backstory: Twitter changed its blocking feature in a way that keeps your public information public even to people you’ve blocked. That defeated the purpose of blocking someone who may be retweeting your posts to others who are bashing you. You may never know they are bashing you.

Put another way, when Twitter altered its blocking function it essentially made it impossible for a blocked user to know that he was blocked. That blocked user could still continue the behavior that caused you to block him. Again, you just wouldn’t be aware that this person was messaging you or retweeting your posts because your feed wouldn’t show it. This set off a firestorm of negative chatter about the changes.

“I wasn’t able to follow/RT [retweet] people who blocked me as recently as a couple weeks ago. Now I can, they just won’t know,” tweeted a Twitter user named Brian. “Block on twitter is basically now just used on yourself. You block your own access, not the person harassing you.”

Twitter’s Wisdom

In reverting this change to the block function, Sippey said users will once again be able to tell that they’ve been blocked. He went on to say that Twitter believes 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,” Sippey said.

“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," he added. "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.”

We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on Twitter’s back and forthing. He told us Twitter presumably wanted to promote more interaction among users.

“But by relaxing its block function it created an uproar,” he said. “That backlash and user revolt made Twitter recognize that it had made a mistake, which it immediately and wisely reversed.”

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

Ronen:

Posted: 2013-12-14 @ 9:56am PT
I think Twitter is for twits… nearly a complete waste of time, and just another sign of the times… lazy writers, lazy readers who can't make it through more than 140 characters. #GiveMeABreak.

Katy:

Posted: 2013-12-14 @ 9:17am PT
Hey Jorma! Hate to break it to you but Journalistic Integrity DIED the day Jeffrey Emmelt took over The GE Powered White House Press Corp Office!

Katy:

Posted: 2013-12-14 @ 9:13am PT
Twitter has nearly replaced the media as 140 character authors DO research many of the lies told by those public figures that require fact checking ~ As for Twitter imploding & disappearing..well 250Million People wont just Disappear ~ They keep The Twitt ALIVE! What will keep Twitters numbers down are the limits that Twitter places on users. The Censorship & Gulag that the Twitter CEO deems as viable is simply ridiculous! Twitter expects investors to gain Twitter users' attention for product purchasing yet users are limited on so many levels. Thats what will Harm The Twitt.

Jorma:

Posted: 2013-12-14 @ 8:20am PT
I'll sound old saying this, but I think Twitter will implode because it will always be so ripe for abuse and misuse. I could be wrong, the internet still thrives in china despite the Human Flesh search and government censorship, but Twitter is a symptom of a disease of the self-centered society; once a number of thinking people start seeing it for the uselessness it is for anything other than self promotion, they will stop using it. Once that happens, it will disappear. The media will miss it; Tweets real and concocted help them verify a story instead of researching, fleshes out the empty articles, advanced agendas they promote, and makes them seem relevant despite the death of journalistic integrity.



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